Email Marketing… With a Cup of Vitriol

Cranky people. Whiners. You see them every day and think, “Wow, what made them that way?” Is it the weather? Some people get bent out of shape during winter; they get depressed and angry. There’s even a technical name for it: “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or “SAD” for short.

How cute.

Or should the blame for chronic crankiness go to the technology you use every day? How about the eternal avalanche of email you receive? Have you pondered how awful some online marketing is these days? Or do you just gravitate to the good stuff and hit the delete button as fast as humanly possible?

Allow me to introduce myself — I’m the curmudgeon who stands up and says the things people wish they could say. I look on the bright side of email marketing when appropriate, but for the most part I make a point of how bad it has gotten. And what you can do to protect yourself from becoming a hated email marketer.

Remember that old 1976 movie “Network,” starring William Holden and Faye Dunaway? If you haven’t seen it, you should, because the line made famous in that flick by news anchor Howard Beale is still appropriate today — “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” And yep, sure enough, I realized that after 10 years of being on the Internet, I’m mad as hell. So I’m here to share with you a little vitriol as I examine the state of the Internet today, especially as it pertains to email marketing.

I want to dissect email campaigns and technologies and find out how some excel and how some really stink. I will try to find the great campaigns being generated every day but also rail against the pieces of trash that go out as well.

I am trying to bring out one slightly above-average Internet consumer’s view of things. What lands me in this category, you ask?

Well, I can only respond that I have been online since 1989 and have used just about every modern computing device known to humankind. I have also worked in the computer industry since 1994, first as a developer for Apple Computer, then as a product manager for several Internet companies, including a large and successful email marketing company. I am now on my own as an independent contractor, doing Web development and consulting for small to medium-sized businesses that want to upgrade and build their online presence to more than brochureware.

Oh, and I get email, lots and lots of email.

I get about 50 pieces of email a day that I have carefully groomed over time to be the kind of email I want to receive. I get tons of junk email, too, which I will talk about from time to time in this column. I won’t banish junk email from the public forum because it is a phenomenon we ought to talk about publicly rather than hide behind statistics. I shop avidly online and see how email can have such excellent uses — and see how truly it can be misused as well.

I will also talk about how personalization still does not work, even though with email it should be a no-brainer. And I’ll discuss thoughts completely from out of left field, “what if” scenarios for the online marketer, things that should be but simply aren’t.

I’m the Email Curmudgeon.
I use the Internet more than your average Joe.
The first web browser was Xmosaic NOT Netscape v1.0.
I get lots of email.
And if I get one more credit card solicitation, I’ll puke.
Andy Rooney is my hero.
I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.

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