• Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I'm not lazy, I just don't careAs an email marketer, I can tell you that many of the people in my profession work hard to develop good content, sell their products and constantly increase the size of their subscription base.

Despite their best efforts, there are three things working against them.

You see, most email subscribers are naive, lazy and misinformed.  Of course I mean that in the nicest way possible ;-).

Email Subscribers are Naive

When Joe consumer buys a burgundy, cashmere, crewneck sweater from and checks the “please send me offers” box, he thinks he’ll get an occasional message about a sale, or perhaps a recommendation for a snazzy vest that would go just right with his new sweater. He trusts them.  He gave them his money and expects that they will be his friend.

Poor unsuspecting Joe.  He never in his wildest dreams imagined that he’d be getting two messages a day from them (on top of all the other spam email he already gets).

But, who’s at fault?  Joe, or the marketers that just abused his trust?  Like the man said “Can’t we all just get along?”.  There has to be a happy medium somewhere, and it’s up to the marketers to search for it, and it’s up to the “Joes” of the world to let them know how much is too much.  If we work towards that balance we’ll all be happier.  Consumers will have great products to buy and marketers will have a nice bump in their conversion rates.

Email Subscribers are Lazy

Despite his keen fashion sense, Joe is lazy.  Even if he is one of the few non-marketers that knows all those emails are required to have a way to unsubscribe, he doesn’t have time to waste looking for a link buried at the bottom, in a typically smaller sized font and a color that often makes it hard to distinguish from the background.

It’s so much easier for Joe to just click “mark as spam.”

But is that really Joe’s fault? Or, are the marketers that think they have to make it as difficult as possible for someone to unsubscribe, while still following the letter of the law the ones to blame?  Many email marketers have been told over and over – “grow that list”, for some it’s even an annual performance goal that has to be met.  Over the years we have actually trained our subscribers to use the “easy” button.  I’d love to blame Joe, can’t.  Sorry.

Rather than judge a list by its size, how about we evaluate how effective it is.  What is your click rate, what is your conversion rate?

If someone decides what you are selling is not for them, make it easy for them to leave.  However – wouldn’t it be better to have figured out what they want from you before it got to that point?  The only way to do that is more testing, and monitoring what works and what doesn’t.

Email Subscribers are Misinformed

Joe doesn’t know (or doesn’t care) that there is a legal definition for “spam”.  Joe thinks any email he does not want is spam.  Joe believes that “mark as spam” is the same thing as “I just don’t want this anymore”.  From Joe’s perspective, it is the same.  He clicks the button, the mail stops showing up in his mailbox.  Problem solved.

Joe doesn’t realize that a lot of those “mark as spam” buttons all over the world are connected to mysterious back-end systems that monitor and track the companies that send the emails people like Joe call spam.  He also doesn’t know that when enough people click those buttons the companys sending out those emails are flagged as spammers, not just for him – but potentially for millions of people.

No matter how great you think your content is or how closely you follow the can-spam rules, if consumers don’t want it – IT IS SPAM.

Now that the company has been flagged, good luck getting people to buy the matching belt and fedora to go with their new sweater.

Joe didn’t intend to cripple that company’s email campaign, he was just sick of getting email from them.  Joe is lazy, remember?

So what can you as email marketers do to help this? Figure out what Joe expects and wants from you, and give it to him.  Format your messages in a way that when the time comes that Joe no longer wants to hear from you, he knows what to do and despite his laziness, resists the urge to click the spam button.

Email Marketers are Naive, Lazy and Misinformed

It seems that perhaps Joe is not the only one at fault.  The email marketers of the world need to not be so naive about what our subscribers actually expect from us, we need to not be so lazy about determining what we send and to who, and we need to help educate our subscribers about how to unsubscribe when they want to.

What would you do to  improve email marketing?  Let me know in the comments.

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2 Responses

  1. 1
    John Newell  //

    (Still) working for several organisations with that attitude – “work it hard and blame the client for lack of attention, response or desire” another trio of ironies you could write about!
    The good news is whilst most get email marketing wrong, there is plenty of free space to do it right and EXCITE and connect with your customers.
    A great example in Australia is ANNACONDA (outdoor sports enthusiast outfitters) with personalised and friendly updates – signed by their regular sales attendant. Often without reason, other than to “wish the best”.

  2. 2
    jocelyn  //

    Jack, I think you are definitely correct! I also like subscribing to interesting email newsletters from time to time but end up putting almost all the weekly emails sent to me to trash because of my hectic schedule. This is, in my opinion, is one of the greatest hindrances why most email marketing strategies fail.