Trend alert: “I messed up”

The “I messed up” emails. They’re intriguing, right?

I subscribe to a lot of people’s email newsletters… from business coaches, tech people, and other health coaches. I’ve noticed a lot of people sending these “I messed up” emails. Here are a few subject lines:

  • How I failed clients
  • I’m coming clean
  • I shouldn’t tell you this
  • A confession
  • Shit! I screwed up
  • Terra, I feel like I let you down & I want to make it up to you (he used my name!)
  • I’m such an idiot. Here’s why…
  • Why I almost quit my business

I have to admit, I open all of them! I’m so curious about how they “messed up” or “failed” or “let you down.” (And I’m also getting a peek at how the trend is evolving because I love to study marketing and communications. It is absolutely fascinating to me.)

But honestly, I think these subject lines are a great way to get people to open the emails.

The intention is to make you think, “hey, she admitted when she was wrong or messed up. She’s a real person, like me.” I don’t think they’re trying to fool anyone (though they may be exaggerating).

When done well, these emails can be a really powerful way to connect with your audience and grow your list. Here’s an example:

The subject line was “I am a complete fraud.”

Woah! I gotta open that one! Is she closing her business? Did someone sue her? What’s going on?!

The email describes her own negative self talk about being a fraud, which was really powerful. She’s tapping in to our own fears as entrepreneurs. (Who hasn’t, at one time or another, been afraid of being a fraud?)

She cleverly outlines why she’s a “fraud” and then gives the reasons why she actually isn’t a fraud. It was a genius way to tell her followers –in detail– why she is the most qualified person to help them.

The alternative would be a boring resume-style list of places she’s worked, courses she’s taken, and clients she’s helped. This was much more stealthy, and much more effective.

She also generously provided a worksheet for her followers to download to help overcome their own fears. The whole thing was really well done. (Check out the corresponding blog post she wrote.)

So, what do you think about these “I failed” emails? Honest and genuine? Or, just another way to get in touch and tell you about their program? I’m on the fence, but you can bet I’m going to keep opening them!

Take action now! Brainstorm a newsletter or blog post you could write about how you’ve failed or let someone down. How could you can use this idea to introduce the 80/20 rule, or talk about bio-individuality? Tell me your ideas here and we can brainstorm together. Or would you avoid this strategy? What’s your take?

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2 Comments
  1. Personally I tend to get annoyed by these subject lines.. Coming from a communication & marketing background, all I see is a marketing trick, so to speak, which makes me feel TRICKED into opening the email…

    I feel like the dynamics of the communication change from “content provider to content consumer” to “marketing practitioner to marketing sheep” (beeeeeehhh! 🙂 ). If I sign up for a newsletter, that’s because I like the content.. and the content provider. I feel a bit “betrayed” when I see that instead of being authentic and delivering the content, they decide to use those “baits”…

    Maybe I’m over-sensitive…? 😁

    • I don’t think you’re being over-sensitive. I wrote this post about 2 years ago, and after seeing these emails over and over and OVER again, I’m with you. They’re starting to get manipulative.

      But aren’t they intriguing? I still love to read them to see how they’re going to try to persuade me. lol

      I got one this week about “you didn’t sign up… here’s what that says about me” and it felt like she was begging me to say, “no, you’re awesome. I love you. I was just busy.” Like they’re fishing for compliments.

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