Sean Donahue

Recession No Excuse for Abandoning Email Best Practices

February 22nd, 2009
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I recently participated in an email marketing webinar with Al Iverson of ExactTarget on the subject of email . As we discussed the importance of email reputation, an attendee sent a note saying: “I wish my boss could hear this…”

Pressed for more details, the attendee noted that his boss thought the marketers’ concerns about spam and reputation were overblown, and that they didn’t need to be as diligent in maintaining the integrity of their opt-in process and email preferences.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketers might be in the same position these days. The recession may tempt some companies to squeeze more revenue or leads from their email marketing programs by pushing the envelope in terms of who they email, what they send, and how often they email each subscriber. 

The problem: Loosening your standards for email marketing may have the opposite effect. Trying to gain a slight boost in metrics, at the expense of following best practices, can cause you to lose subscribers and hurt your email reputation

So, if you’re a marketer under pressure to fudge the rules a bit, here are four compelling reasons to stick to best practices and resist avoid abusing your lists (all data comes from MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Email Marketing Benchmark Guide). 

#1. Privacy assurances are the top incentive to subscribe

When presented with a range of potential incentives for subscribing to email programs, consumers ranked a guarantee that their address wouldn’t be shared with other companies as the most compelling:

– 66% said such a guarantee would make them somewhat more or much more likely to opt-in.

Don’t undercut what could be your best incentive for gathering new subscribers by renting or sharing your list for a one-time gain. 

#2. Consumers already feel mislead by opt-in rules

We asked consumers about the email they receive from known and trusted companies, and whether they believe they had expressly signed up to receive it. 

– Only 10% said they had asked to receive all the email they get from companies. 

– More than half felt they had never requested the majority of the emails they receive from companies.

It’s clear that few subscribers realize they’d signed up to receive every email they get from you as it is. Sending out even more email to these consumers could further erode their trust in your email programs. 

#3. Irrelevant messages and high volume cause unsubscribes

The top two reasons consumers said they unsubscribe from company emails:

– The emails weren’t relevant to me

– I received too many emails from the sender

If you’re under pressure to generate more activity from your list, you may push out less relevant content. The increased volume likely won’t be welcomed, either. Taken together, it’s a recipe to lose subscribers. 

#4. Irrelevant messages and high volume are likely to be seen as spam

Finally, we asked consumers who had clicked the “report spam” or “junk” button why they had flagged those messages. The top reason was that they hadn’t signed up (or didn’t remember signing up) for email from the sender. But second and third most popular reasons were:

– The email received wasn’t of interest to me

– I receive too much email from the sender

So, not only can more email and less relevant email cause subscribers to abandon your programs, it can also get you labeled as a spammer, hurting your email reputation and depressing your overall deliverability statistics.

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  1. Dana
    February 23rd, 2009 at 11:00 | #1

    Great post. You want subscribers who actually WANT to receive emails from you. It is actually so much more wasteful to send to people who are not even interested. It’s the quality of your email subscriber list(s), not the quantity. It’s just a waste of time to put forth effort to people who really don’t care.

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