Desperation Marketing Courts E-mail Hell

This fourth business quarter is a rocky ride, given grim holiday-spending projections and pressure to make budget. Maybe that explains why so many companies abandon good e-mail practices for risky moves like boosting frequency or marketing to iffy lists.

Maybe you’re in the same squeeze, having to scramble to find a way to pull in more sales, make your numbers or hold on to the market share you have already. But you need to understand that going to the e-mail well too often can touch off this vicious circle:

  1. Risky moves drive more spam complaints.

  2. More spam complaints damage your sender reputation.
  3. A bad reputation makes ISPs block your e-mails from customer inboxes.
  4. Blocked inboxes reduce your delivery.
  5. Reduced delivery means reduced e-mail results.

Recent Examples of Dangerous Desperation Marketing

Olympic-sized Overreach: I signed up for NBC’s Olympics e-mail coverage this year. But, after the Games ended, I guess the network needed to find a way to monetize its subscriber list.

So, in November, I received an e-mail from “Universal Sports” telling me “You are recieving (sic) this newsletter as a result of signing up when you registered at”

I did not opt in to receive this message and know nothing about Universal Sports. To make matters worse, they sent me two copies of the same message. So, I hit the spam-complaint button two times to make up for it.

Expired-permission lists: Two companies recently “found” lists of e-mail addresses they had not marketed to previously and wanted to know how to message them for this holiday period. Short answer: Don’t.

Even if the people on these lists did agree to receive e-mails, it probably was so long ago that they either forgot or don’t care anymore.

If you suddenly start sending messages, especially without explaining why you’re suddenly in the inbox, they probably won’t be welcomed.

Opt-out e-mail appends to past customers: Relevance drives action (open, click, convert). Irrelevance drives negative actions (delete, unsubscribe, complain).

If your past customers haven’t purchased from you in several years and never subscribed to receive e-mails, and if your relationship with them is so far removed they didn’t give you their e-mail addresses, how can you possibly send them a relevant message? How can you even consider them a customer?

Sending to the “living dead:” This year, more marketers began to recognize the value of cleaning out their lists, identifying inactive subscribers and removing those who didn’t respond to reactivation campaigns. Many companies who did this saw dramatic results.

Now, however, it’s crunch time. Inactive subscribers who never technically unsubscribed suddenly seem more attractive to marketers looking for any live body to squeeze a sale from.

Before you reach out to these lists, remember why you stopped e-mailing to the living dead. If you add them back to your live database and e-mail as if nothing happened, you’re wasting your time and resources and courting more spam complaints.

Double down on holiday frequency: When I look at year-over-year trends, I often see e-mail-volume spikes for November and December. These generated below-average open and click rates and above- average unsubscribes and complaints. The top two reasons recipients unsubscribe from e-mails: lack of relevance and frequency.

Yes, these additional campaigns also often add short-term revenue for the holiday season. As for overall performance, they tend to do more damage than good. When you added that extra weekly mailing, it was most likely to the full list, untargeted and not highly relevant. Calculate the risks against the rewards.

Some marketers fail to look at how their fourth-quarter decisions can hurt their results for January through March. Negative statistics keep coming in long after the volume spikes have stopped.

As we head deeper into the holiday season, take a minute before you send that extra e-mail this week and review last year’s trends, not just for November and December, but for the year. You might see higher list churn and lower results in the first and second quarters, caused by bad fourth-quarter decisions the previous year.

Watch for Waste through Haste

Desperation marketing also takes its toll on quality control. Watch for these typical mistakes that damage the e-mail experience and make readers hesitate to trust you with their business:

  • Broken images

  • Wrong call to action
  • Typos
  • Sending to the wrong list
  • Sending to the wrong segment
  • Sending test copy to the whole list

One extra minute or two on proofing can keep you out of Retail Email blogger Chad White’s popular Oopsy Hall of Fame.

Until next time, keep on deliverin’!

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