When Good News Isn’t New News

Everyone likes to learn something new, so research is always welcome. It’s also gratifying to have your instincts and practices confirmed and validated by the number crunchers. IMT Strategies‘ recent report on email marketing is a good example. The report offers those of us interested in consumer relationships little new information — I hope. Instead, it underscores ground rules we already know we should be following.

News flash: Consumers don’t like spam!

The study found that 77 percent of US consumers delete unsolicited commercial email (spam) without reading it. If you’re wondering what’s wrong with the other 23 percent, consider that 16 percent open spam but are “somewhat annoyed.” That leaves about 7 percent of users who are indifferent or better about spam. If you’re going to send email to consumers who didn’t ask for it, don’t plan for an enthusiastic audience. Expect them to delete your mail and to be annoyed when they see your address reappear in their in boxes at a future date.

News flash: Consumers aren’t reading your spam.

A mere 1 percent of consumers said that they were “eager to read” spam, and 4 percent were “curious to read” it. I’m not sure why they would be, but maybe these people are interested in “The Best # 1 Money Earner on the Internet$$$$$”; “At Last, Herbal V, the All Natural Alternative!”; or the “FREE Non Surgical Face Lift in A Bottle.” (All actual subject lines in my delete box.) You never know about some people.

News flash: If consumers ask you to send them email, they want to read it.

The same report stated that 48 percent of users are “curious to read” and 13 percent “eager to read” permission-based email. Thirty percent are indifferent, but 61 percent of consumers who ask for email to be sent them are planning to read that email. If you can provide these folks with what they’re looking for, you’ll make them happy and more likely to read your future email. Pleased consumers who are looking forward to doing business with you — nothing wrong with that.

News flash: You can’t please everyone (but you can please 91 percent).

Only 2 percent of consumers delete permission-based email without reading it, and 7 percent open it with a “somewhat annoyed” attitude. Considering that many people may not have really understood what they were doing when they “opted” in, that opt-out procedures for many companies are difficult, and that too many companies send too many emails, I am surprised the number is so low. However, the picture is clear: Users who request email are not angry when they get it. You can serve your customers while connecting with them.

News flash: You’re probably sending too many emails (someone is).

Assume a small average of permission-based emails per person per day — say 3.5 — and let’s guess there will be around 180 million Internet users over the next few years. We’re looking at a serious amount of email (roughly 230 billion messages). eMarketer estimates 226.7 billion by 2003. That is a lot of email, a lot of stuff to wade through, even for folks “eager to read” it. If your email is providing value amid the muck, you can send fewer mailings and get more results. Try it.

It’s comforting to know that consumers are acting rationally with their in boxes. If you’re treating them with respect, you don’t have to change a thing. I just hope you didn’t learn anything too new today.

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