David Yunghans

You know how people give you presents you don’t like, with the explanation that it’s something you’ll appreciate later? E-mail marketers do the same thing. They send you buckets of E-mail messages from their own perspectives rather than crafting messages that would actually do the receiver some good.

You know why that doesn’t work? “No one cares,” says David Yunghans, regional development director for the E-mail newsletter giant Constant Contact.”

Yunghans will present “Why Don’t My E-mails Get Opened?” at the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce Lunch N Learn on Wednesday, April 24, at 11:30 a.m. at Jester’s Cafe in Bordentown. Cost: $22. Visit www.midjerseychamber.org.

An Indiana Hoosier by birth, Yunghans moved to Pittman when he was 10. His father, Roland, became New Jersey’s chief environmental scientist and literally co-wrote the book on coastal wetlands protection in the state, “The Application of ERTS Data to Coastal Environmental Protection in New Jersey.” The elder Yunghans’ assertion that tidal areas belonged to the people is the reason tidal areas are protected here.

Yunghans graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1973 with a bachelor’s in industrial design. He went to work for major corporations, the largest being DuPont in Delaware, where he worked in corporate meeting planning and eventually in its printing and publishing department until 1999. He then became a training specialist for RC Taylor and for Teambuilders Plus. He did a team building program with Constant Contact in Philadelphia, and the firm offered him a job — which he didn’t want.

“I thought it was a pain, I didn’t understand it,” he said of the E-mail newsletter program. But he figured it would be a great opportunity to learn and, once he got comfortable with it, a great thing to teach. He’s been at Constant Contact since 2009.

Yunghans has spent much of his time teaching marketers how to get people to care enough to open their E-mails and actually read them. The first thing marketers need to know? The deck is stacked against them.

Two seconds and other bad news. The success of E-mail marketing is ruled by the amount of time it takes for a reader to make up his mind about whether to open a message. That’s about two seconds, Yunghans says.

In this era of never-ending messages, we all have become quite efficient at sifting through crap. In that two seconds, a receiver will consider four questions: “Do I know the sender? Did I give the sender permission to send me this? What’s in it for me to open this? Do I really, really, really care?” Yunghans says. Without a yes every half-second, the E-mail you just spent so much time crafting will go in your receiver’s trash folder.

If you manage to get all those yeses, you now have an average of 34 seconds in which to convince the reader that you’re worth reading and to complete your message. “People scan, they don’t read,” Yunghans says. “If I print out your E-mail and it’s more than one page, it’s too long. It needs to be short, sweet, and to the point.”

Further stacking the deck against you is the blessing and curse of E-mail marketing — it’s free, or at least very inexpensive. Because of this, marketers tend to think they can just lob armfuls of messages at anything resembling an inbox and hope something sticks. Says Yunghans: “There’s just too much of it.” Better to send out your newsletter once a quarter than to harass people once a week.

You’re not supposed to sell things. One of the hardest concepts for new business people to understand about marketing is that you’re not supposed to sell people every chance you get. When it comes to E-mail marketing, Yunghans says you shouldn’t be selling anything at all. “The purpose of an E-mail is not to sell, it’s to build trust.”

Consider the advice Yunghans gave to a photographer at a workshop two years ago. The photographer asked how she could give information for free to her newsletter subscribers. Yunghans asked her to imagine she had $100 with which to buy a camera at Best Buy. Which would it be and why? That professional insight, Yunghans says, is the kind of thing that people can use — a moderately priced camera that works well enough for a professional photographer is something a consumer would want to know about.

The obvious follow-up question came: “How would I make money?” Yunghans suggested that if she had sent him a newsletter about every eight weeks for the past two years, featuring advice on better composition techniques, ways to get great effects, maybe cameras for kids, he would have read them. And now that his daughter is nearing getting married, he would need a photographer for her wedding. And who would he call, but a photographer he knew and trusted? And who would he recommend to friends who are looking for a photographer for their own children’s weddings?

Forget the money. Remember that thing about not selling? You’re also not supposed to be quoting prices in E-mail, Yunghans says. The Internet has made price transparent. “We all know what everything costs,” he says. If someone E-mails an announcement for 15 percent off car insurance, people ask “15 percent off what?”

E-mail marketing is about trust-building over time. And there is no standard timeframe for how long it takes. Just know that it takes a while to reap the rewards.

Yunghans does two-hour workshops and says he doesn’t even ask for anyone’s trust for 90 minutes. Building that trust is a blend of showing people that you’re an expert in your field and taking good care of them when they come to you for your knowledge and services. And, especially in the wireless world, building trust means building positive consensus.

The opinions of others. We all like to think we’re immune to the influence of the crowd (even Yunghans), but consider the vacation Yunghans took with his wife not long ago. The couple were in Prague and they were hungry. On opposite sides of the street were two restaurants that offered similar ambience, cuisine, and prices. Only, one place was packed to the point that there was a line outside while the other had seven or eight empty seats.

Yunghans noticed the sticker for TripAdvisor on the door of the crowded restaurant. TripAdvisor.com is a site where everyday people, not critics, rate and review their experiences at restaurants, hotels, and other such places. The people spoke highly of this one restaurant and, apparently, not at all of the other. So the Yunghans got in line and waited for a table, rather than going across the street, where they could have found a table and finished eating by the time they had sat down in the busy place.

Building that kind of following comes from being good at what you do and making sure people know it, Yunghans says. And that’s the core of E-mail marketing. Not price, trust. Not sales, reputation. And if handled correctly, the opportunity pool is deep.

“People keep saying E-mail is dead in the age of Twitter and all that,” Yunghans says. “But then why do people open their E-mail an average of six times a day?”