The other day I got an email from a company I’d never heard of, offering me an inside look at a product that would revolutionize my inbox placement if I would just give it a try.
It was different enough from the spam I usually get that I took a second glance; I don’t get interesting spam anymore – just the usual assortment of fake pills and fake Rolexes and Russian women who desperately want to marry me. I noticed it had been sent to an email address that I have only ever used on my work-related blog – that is, it’s published there and has never, ever been used to sign up for anything. My knee-jerk reaction was to assume my address had been harvested, so I immediately asked someone from A_MAJOR_BLOCKLIST if they’d heard of this company: no. A quick check of other resources revealed the same thing – this was an unknown European company that had done no previous traceable harm. The tone of of the email gave me pause.
My world view of spam is divided into roughly three camps: Criminal-scented spam (botnet, snowshoe, etc), Regular-flavor spam (junk mail sent from companies that know better but don’t care) and Oops-I-didn’t-know spam (companies that are new to digital marketing and do lots of stuff wrong, but are willing to learn). There is of course a lot of room for overlap but these three buckets work well for me in general.
So, this email that I’d just gotten: Was this in fact spam knowingly sent to a harvested address, or was it a well-intentioned but ignorant mistake? I decided to test my theory and so I sent a polite, brief note back to the originator of the message, asking why they harvest email addresses.
- Test #1 – would the email bounce? No, it didn’t.
- Test #2 – would the originator reply? Yes, she responded. She explained that she was a reader of my blog and had thought that perhaps I would be interested in the product, etc. Apologies if the mail was misdirected.
I must be getting old. Instead of summarily dismissing this as “regular-flavored spam”, I wrote back. I explained the difference between true personalization and the method they’d chosen, what the probable response to this email would be, and what my instinctive response had actually been – stressing that if my circumstances were what they once used to be, I would have blocked the domain without giving it a second thought. I closed my email by offering some constructive advice and my continued help, if they wanted it. Her reply was along the lines of “I totally agree with you! However, we had to meet the production calendar…” Surprise! This was yet another victim in a long line of them I have met over the years – the well-intentioned geek at the mercy of the bean-counters.
Don’t be that guy.
More specifically, don’t be that poor guy’s upper management. It’s not smart marketing and the resulting hit to your reputation will cost you conversions, time and hassle, all of which cost real money. How many of you well-intentioned geeks have had what you know are success-killing strategies forced on you by an upper management that doesn’t know better…or worse, that does know better and continues along their chosen path regardless? As digital marketing becomes ever more prevalent, this is a problem we will all face sooner or later. A planned strategy of how to push back on this behavior before it happens is a good thing to have; it could save your company a lot of money and hassle. Just turning bright purple and having apoplexy, as tempting as it may be, will not be sufficient! What do you do? How do you handle this problem?
Annalivia Ford, Email Delivery Manager, EMEA