Getting Emotional About Email

Greetings, readers, and happy Valentine’s Day! Welcome to a “holiday” based on emotion and marketing on steroids!

Let’s face it: Using emotion is often the best way to persuade someone. How else could a so-called Hallmark holiday become a multibillion dollar business? That’s what this week’s column is about — my somewhat emotional response to some pet peeves that have plagued me in the past few weeks. (As an aside, if you are interested in seeing a unique Web site that is all about emotion, check out one that I go to for kicks now and then: Eric Conveys an Emotion.)

Anyway, color me “annoyed.” If you are following any of the practices I talk about below, I hope you consider how effectively you are providing your audience with value. You might also think about how you may be hastening the demise of email response rates. Although occasionally friends or family give me a hard time, saying, “You spam people for a living,” they all know that ultimately we are trying to help legitimate businesses reach their customers with legitimate information and requested offers. That’s why I feel so emotional about email and some of the following pet peeves.

I hate it when the only option for removal from a list is to reply to an email address.

Unfortunately, this is the oldest trick in the spammers’ handbook. If someone replies, asking to be removed, you know you have a live body. If this is currently the only way people can ask to be removed, you may want to provide them an additional option. Most people will not send an email to unsubscribe or be removed and will instead block your mail or filter it directly to the trash bin. Wouldn’t you prefer to just get that name off your list? Give them options whenever you can.

Why are passwords being required for so many mundane functions on the Web?

If you are going to ask for a password, why not make sure that the person choosing (and having to use) the password has the ability to choose one that makes sense to him? Make sure your password “rules” are clearly stated on the page where the information is being requested. I have to really want something to continue to submit my form when I discover my data cannot be accepted for reasons that are only made known to me after I hit the submit button.

Additionally, if you are offering free access to a trial, a document, or something similar, make sure you test the accessibility from outside your organization. We recently experienced this with one client whose firewall/internal networking allowed access to all areas of the company’s site from within its network. But when we tested the link from our office, we discovered a username and password were needed for that trial, and we had to adjust the campaign at the last minute to ensure the promised access.

Why did you invite me to sample your audio, video, and Flash creative?

It crashed my email program, then my IE browser, then my PC. Ugggggh! That is so wrong! Don’t make offers your technology cannot support. I have similar problems with offers that are so popular, you can’t get to the Web site to fulfill the call to action.

Last week, I received my weekly fare update from my favorite airline (one of the big guys). In it, the company offered to let recipients post a greeting or wish luck to the U.S. Olympic athletes in Salt Lake City. I tried for approximately two business days (not straight, I do have a job to get done…) to get into that site, to no avail. Now, let’s face it, we all wish our campaigns were so successful, but you can prepare for these types of events. In this case, the offer was free of charge, and, in return, you could save 10 percent on your next plane ticket. How could you not know that response would be great? Why not spread out the deployment of your file so that you manage the traffic coming to the site? If you notice access issues, why not tell me that on the page where I am about to get caught in the loop? Try some simple text like: “Due to the overwhelming response to this offer, we are experiencing some technical slow downs. Please keep trying or come back later…” If there’s nothing else you can do, just acknowledge the issue and try to salvage some of those responders.

Why do people think they have the right to email you because they saw your address on a discussion list?

Here’s the verbiage of one message I received liked this: “I noticed your email address on a list serve related to next generation Web services, applications, Web development, and content management solutions.” I call “shenanigans” on this type of contact. The address it came from was the typical spammer’s address, like John9737363875@BIGFREEISP.com (read Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.). Is anyone actually having success pulling names off discussion lists? Again, you’re only making people more reticent to provide their email addresses, even to legitimate sources. Your statement did nothing to interest me in your offering; it served only to annoy me.

There’s nothing like friends and family blindly forwarding email.

Believe me when I say that I have big family! I love to hear from them, especially those not in the area. Email is a wonderful tool for keeping us in touch. It has especially allowed me to stay in touch with and get to know the “next generation” — my cousin’s children. However, I am getting to the point where the many-times forwarded messages are a bit old. So, my advice to you is this: Please forward wisely. And if you really like the poem or thoughts contained therein, please remove the “you must forward this” statements before sending them along. Don’t we all have enough guilt in our lives, not to mention email sitting in the inbox that has to be dealt with? Lastly, if you are going to forward something like that, at least say “hi” when you do.

OK, that’s it for me this week. I hope something here helps you think more wisely about not only your campaigns but also your personal email marketing!

Until the 26th,

–Jackie G.

P.S. Lynne and I are working on getting the industry statistics you were all so interested in after my column in January. Stay tuned in the next few weeks, and, if you have some industry resources you use for measurement, send them our way; we are still researching.

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