Oh, the humanity: Email Marketing and Spam

It’s no secret that I do a lot of research around the email marketing space when coming up with a blog topic. One thing I’ve noticed a lot of is this idea that email marketers are automatically somehow the same as spammers. In fact, I’ve had this conversation a lot:

“So what do you do?”
“I work for a marketing automation platform”
“Oh, so you support spammers.”

This inevitably devolves into a conversation about what spam actually is and is not, and is why I’m not invited back to some parties (I kid!). This kind of pervasive thinking, that “email marketer = spammer” is why people like Chad White, (who has a blog I strongly recommend reading), started mentioning he worked “in marketing” and left it at that.

There are a few things that can explain the origins of this association between email marketing and spam, but they’re the bad habits that that go against everything we know about marketing to our clients and prospects. Things like buying addresses and uninspired, impersonal content are known no-nos. And we can’t discount the fact that we often receive email from brands up to 5 times a day (personally, one company holds the record at 16 emails sent to me in a less than 12 hour period) after making a single purchase.

All of those factors, combined, have led to the idea that if you work in email marketing, you are a spammer. Even if you follow best practices, even if you’ve never purchased a list, you battle against that moniker all the time. How in the world do we turn it around and make people understand that email marketing and spam aren’t one and the same?

Find your humanity.

What I mean by that is, be the change you want to see in email. Your prospects are people, just like you are, and it’s harder and harder to get into an inbox if you’re still relying on the old “batch and mass send” strategy. How would you want to be marketed to, as a person interested in your product?

“Would I want to be sent spam?”

This is one of my favorite questions to ask people to consider when discussing purchased lists. Have you, personally, ever received a spam email? The answer is a resounding yes, followed by a significant number of confused looks. Yes, obviously, you own an email address, so you’ve gotten spam. Now, how often have you LOVED getting that unsolicited email SO much that you open, click, and purchase a product or use a service? Or are you significantly more likely to delete it without a second thought, wondering why in the world your spam filter didn’t catch that email? In my years of experience, and all of my conversations with people who have been in the industry for decades, the answer is always some form of “Well I delete it, of course! I hate spam!” So why, if you personally hate it when you get a spam email, would you ever bother purchasing a list and sending unsolicited mass emails to that list? Your prospects won’t like it anymore than you do. One more piece of unsolicited mail isn’t going to help grow your brand or give you any kind of real ROI, so if nothing else, it’s not a good use of your marketing budget to bother with purchasing a list.

“How many emails do I want to receive from the same person per day?”

Nobody wants to be the email equivalent of this (bonus points if you make it through a minute of that video without feeling tremendously annoyed). Sending emails too frequently is just not a great marketing or sales tactic. You want to be available and let them know you’re there and you’re thinking of them, but you don’t want to annoy them into reporting you as spam or opting out. In Pardot, this is where our email recency and frequency rules really come in handy, so you can be sure you aren’t accidentally hassling your prospects. Think about how many emails you’d want to receive in a specific timeframe from one person or company, then apply that to your marketing strategy.

“I wrote down my info to get something at a booth or a tent”

Every year, during our usual “Let’s go to a food related event” season (and yes, it is a season in Atlanta), my best friend and I will wind up at whatever tent is giving out the best swag. Win an iPad for giving you my personal information? Sure, hand it on over. Free tote bag with your logo all over it? Pass that clipboard, STAT. Our intent, however, is not to sign up for your email, our intent is to get to whatever the item is. We, in all honesty, don’t care to be added to your email marketing, and that’s true for a significant number of your prospects. That’s not to say you shouldn’t run a contest or a sweepstakes to grow your list, generate buzz, and get people interested in your brand, but you should absolutely include an opt in checkbox on your paper forms, your Pardot forms, or any other form for the sweepstakes. Give us the option of opting in, instead of forcing us to either give you fake information or opt out. It’s better for you to know someone is not interested up front than wasting valuable database space on prospects that won’t engage with your mail.

“Do I remember what I’d opted into 4 years ago?”

One of my favorite high bounce compliance cases was someone telling me their intern found a list from 2006 in a filing cabinet. The poor intern then had to manually type those addresses in and send those prospects an email….resulting in an over 50% bounce rate. Not only are older emails significantly more likely to bounce, those prospects have no idea who you are and are more likely to click to report spam. That’s a double whammy to your sending reputation that you’ve built up so carefully. Older lists are a significant trigger for spam complaints, so you’ll want to clean your list first, then run a permission pass to remind prospects who you are and ask if they’re still interested in receiving email from your company. It’s quick, easy to run, and can get you back in touch with interested prospects without being marked as spam.

“I have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions”

I CONFESS. No I haven’t. Nobody has time to read through those insanely long documents just to sign up for a service, all we know is that we have to click the checkbox that says “I Agree” in order to get what we’re looking for. Marketers often point to “Well, they agreed to receive email because they clicked to agree to our terms and conditions”…but I’m forced to check that box to sign up for your service. At that point, I’m still being forced to sign up for a mailing list I never wanted to be on, so I’m likely to give you fake information or figure out some way of filtering your mail before you even get to start marketing to me. Again, this is another case where it’s a good idea to include a checkbox asking me if I want to opt into your email. If I choose not to opt in anyway, it’s better for you to know I don’t want your email up front than wasting that precious database space.

That wraps it up for today’s post. Anything I left out? Feel free to continue the conversation over on Twitter, @holobachgirl.

b2b email marketing

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