What separates email marketing messages from spam is the ability for receivers to opt-out (i.e. remove themselves from a mailing list)—the signal of respect for the message viewer and his or her privacy. Yet, a study released just last month (Nov 2008) from the deliverability firm Return Path states that many of the best-known U.S. brands handle their email marketing efforts poorly. Participants in the survey included names like Wal-Mart, Staples, Sears, Disney, the New York Times, Kraft, Fisher Price, BMW, Expedia, Hertz and Marriott.
According to the report, 20% of the companies surveyed continued to send email messages to recipients after they had requested to unsubscribe, and at least five companies admitted to sending emails 10 days after they’d received an unsubscribe request, which is a violation of the federal Can Spam Act. The reason behind the flubs is not entirely clear. They could have occurred because marketers, in spite of potentially ruining their reputations, attempt a last ditch effort to keep customers, or simply because they don’t realize they’ve made a mistake (via Top Firms Fumble Opt Outs: Return Path, DirectMag.com). The latter, however, could easily be remedied by marketers surveying their email list and asking for customer feedback. Whatever the case may be, receiving a bunch of unwanted email messages from a company always results in negative consequences.
In light of the reports about big businesses, it’s understandable that small businesses have under-utilized or ignored email marketing services. But the fact is that successful companies, who often see an increase in revenue of 50% or more, continue to use email marketing tools to reach customers effectively and instantaneously. That’s why people like me keep writing about it. If utilized correctly, email is a powerful, valuable means of marketing online. Jeremy Saibil, director of deliverability at Campaigner, says that email marketers should empathize with email recipients to fully test the deliverability and effectiveness of emails before sending them. He advises:
Have your IT folks set up a pristine, never-before-used e-mail box. Take this new address and subscribe to all of your own marketing programs. Now take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of your users and ask yourself how many e-mails you send a week as a company (The e-mail deliverability blame game: Marketers need to look in the mirror, DMNews.com).
Always remember that the full responsibility for your marketing efforts should never fall solely on your service provider. You should take the time to make sure your email messages are worth someone’s time and interest. And that means choosing an email marketing service provider who can meet your expectations. In an economy like ours, marketers can no longer afford to waste time and money on ineffective practices.