Are You Ready for Some Football…Bacn?

I got an e-mail promotion yesterday that someone spent a lot of time on. It offered a good deal on two tickets to the September 30 Miami Dolphins/Oakland Raiders game on. Offer benefits were presented in bullet points, the call to action was clear, and the message even had a cute salutation: “Dear Dol-Fan.” There’s just one problem.

I’m a Washington Redskins fan.

Is it spam? Is it bacn (define)? I don’t know. But I do know it’s not a good use of the Dolphins’ e-mail marketing budget.

Turns out the Dolphins have been e-mailing me twice a month for a while. I just hadn’t noticed until now (I get a lot of e-mail). It sends to an e-mail address I used to opt in to or purchase something from the National Football League’s (NFL’s) Web site.

I’ve tried to think back: Did I order Dolphins merchandise from NFL.com? A Dan Marino jersey? Perhaps I cited Trent Green as a favorite player when he was in Washington, and now the NFL thinks my team allegiance has followed him to Miami (though I don’t recall getting e-mail from the Rams or Chiefs when he played for them?

Some family members aren’t Redskins fans, but while I may have purchased the odd Eagles key ring, Buccaneers hat, or Patriots T-shirt, I’ve no history, as far as I can remember, of doing anything to suggest I had an interest in Miami.

The List Matters

As I mentioned earlier, a good bit of time and money were spent on the e-mail messages the Dolphins have sent me. But because the team’s sending them to the wrong person, creative and messaging are moot.

The list matters. In e-mail, as in offline direct mail, it’s the most critical part of the marketing equation. If the people you’re sending to aren’t interested in an e-mail’s content, it doesn’t matter how well thought out the creative or offer is. It’s not going to product results.

While renting opt-in lists is a legitimate (albeit rather expensive) proposition, this doesn’t appear to be a list rental. The unsubscribe wording in the footer states I’m on a list to receive e-mail from the Dolphins, not the NFL. This is a Miami Dolphins list, though there’s no evidence I’m a Dol-Fan.

The best lists are the ones you build yourself. Taking someone else’s list as your own is risky. You must vet it carefully and ensure the people on the list are truly in your target audience. If they aren’t, you’re wasting their time — as well as your own time, money, and resources.

Despite what some would have you believe, e-mail is not first and foremost a numbers game. A large list of unknowns rarely outperforms a smaller list of highly qualified names. Is it easier to buy a large list and just start blasting e-mail? Sure. But is it an effective way to run your e-mail marketing program? Nope.

When in Doubt, Ask

Segmentation and targeting are the mantra of good e-mail marketers. Not all football fans are loyal to the Dolphins. Or to the Redskins. But unless we marketers ask, we won’t know.

The best place to gather this type of information is at opt-in. If what you ask for will clearly help you send more relevant e-mail, people are usually happy to oblige. Even if you missed this opportunity, it’s not too late.

There’s a perception that it’s expensive to go to a legacy list and get more information about subscribers’ interests. It’s not. You can’t expect 100 percent response, but the people who do respond will be engaged. And if you target your future e-mail to their preferences, they may even respond and generate some revenue for your company. Which is what it’s really all about, right?

I visited the NFL.com site to see if it had any information about my teams tied to my e-mail address. Although I regularly receive e-mail from it, as well as from the Dolphins, I was told my e-mail address wasn’t recognized (which is another column in and of itself, especially when it provides a link to “update my account” in every e-mail it sends).

When I went in to create a new account, I was asked for information on my teams. This is exactly what the NFL needs to do to avoid my situation in the future.

So I plan to unsubscribe from the Dolphin’s list (nothing personal, Trent!), and I look forward to receiving whatever Redskins-related e-mail the NFL sees fit to send me. Go Skins!

Until next time,

Jeanne

Meet Jeanne at ClickZ Specifics: E-Mail Marketing on October 2, in New York City.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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