Hunger for Email Addresses

If one message has come through loud and clear to me over the last two weeks, it’s marketers’ hunger to get email addresses.

This is not just happening online but offline as well. When my 11-year-old daughter filled out a warranty card for her new radio, it asked for an email address. When our YMCA handed out headphones for its new Stairmaster “entertainment system,” the form I filled out wanted my email address.

I heard the same mantra at the Abraham summit. Corey Rudl underlined it and had me write it in a box. Getting the email address lets you automate your back-end processes, while you build credibility and rapport with your prospect.

“Your list is your most important asset,” he added. “Audit the list to take out bad addresses, remind them of what they saw with you and offer specials, do a survey of why people didn’t buy.”

“One of the most effective ways to sell is via email,” said Ralph Wilson of WilsonWeb the next day. “You can encode a customer number in an HTML email so when they click you can greet them by name.”

Drew Kaplan, the catalog expert who is still working on his site, is focusing entirely on getting email addresses. “When I have the email address, I’ve got them,” he said.

I can’t entirely disagree. But what you do with that email address – or what others do with an email address collected in your name – can make a great deal of difference.

An outfit calling itself VCI, for instance, wrote to say it recently obtained some vending machines and was looking for associates to place them in high-traffic locations. These programs have been around for decades, and some are quite legitimate. This one was headlined (for credibility’s sake) “Everyone loves Hershey’s Chocolates.” Note the heavy use of the brand name.

After getting a dozen or so of these missives I got suspicious and ran one through Spamcop, a site run by Julian Haight that tries to trace spam messages to their source and, if you like, can send a complaint in the right form to the right place. Spamcop identified the email as having come from, but added the spammer’s account had already been pulled by the ISP.

What’s left from the incident (for most folks) is, of course, a bad taste in the mouth from Hershey’s. Now Hershey’s had nothing to do with this – a spammer used its name to sell a dubious proposition. We’re going to see a lot more brand-name hijacking in the coming months.

The lesson is that you have to be careful what you do with an email address once you get it. If outgoing emails aren’t personal, if they don’t have a purpose (beyond sales), you may keep the address, but you won’t keep the recipient’s attention.

So remember the difference between having my address and having my attention. Don’t get so hungry to obtain and use email addresses that you choke on them.

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