The Difference Between Email And Email Marketing

Does swapping business cards at a networking event, meeting, social function, etc, give people the right to add you to their database and start sending you their e-newsletter?

This was the question posted about a month ago in the eMarketing Association Network LinkedIn group. As I write this, there are 267 comments (now 273 ... 278). This is from a question proposed 30+ days ago. There are lots of opinions. It's worth joining the group just to skim through the comments.

Before I dissect the answers, I think it's time to clear up some confusion about email vs. email marketing. Sending an email is not the same as executing an email marketing campaign.

Email: My mom sent me an email last week with a link to an article. My boss sent me an email yesterday asking for a (TPS) report. My wife forwarded me an email this morning about an event this weekend.

Email Marketing: Apple sent me an email introducing the iPad. Costco sent me an email highlighting its upcoming promotions. United sent me an email reminding me of an upcoming flight.



Do you see the difference? Allow me to get a few definitions (mine) on the table:


  •       Usually one-to-one or one-to-several communication.

  •       Not permission-based.

  •       Normally free (think: Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, etc).

  •       Often a message sent from a person.


    Email Marketing:

  •       Usually one-to-many (hundreds, thousands, millions) communication.

  •       Permission-based (opt-in).

  •       Normally costs money (think: email service provider).

  •      Often a message sent by a company (but could also be a person).


    Now back to the question above, about the etiquette of sending an e-newsletter to someone with whom you swapped  business cards.

    Paraphrasing, the replies have ranged from, "Of course. I expect to get an email from them," to "Providing my business card is not the same thing as opting in to receive your email newsletters or other marketing messages."

    Do you see the subtle difference in the replies? I'd argue that both answers are correct. The difference here goes back to how one differentiates email from email marketing. Reread the definitions I've provided above.

    An exchange of business cards grants both parties permission to contact the other based on information printed on the card. In other words, if you put your cell phone and email address on your business card, expect to hear from me via either or both of those methods. I'm telling you (giving you permission) to contact me. You. Not your company. You. Once the initial communication has occurred - say, an email in this case -- both parties agree how the relationship will continue from there. This is email.

    Now, just because I've given you my business card with my email address on it and (maybe) asked you to follow up with me, I have not granted you permission to add me to any of your company's email marketing communications. Once you add me to a list and begin sending me your newsletter, product updates, specials, etc, you are practicing email marketing. You are engaging in one-to-many communication (mass email).

    How does your organization manage leads from conferences? Do you:

    a.     Cull through all of the business cards you gather and email folks individually? (Email)

    b.     Transcribe the email addresses into a file and drop them into your house list? (Email Marketing)

    c.      Contact each new lead personally (via email) and ask them if you can add them to your email campaign list(s)? (Email à Email Marketing)

    I'd recommend option c.

  • 9 comments about "The Difference Between Email And Email Marketing".
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    1. Morgan Stewart from Trendline Interactive, June 14, 2010 at 1:40 p.m.

      Nice article DJ. Agree that option C is the best approach. Thanks for highlighting this important distinction!

    2. Adam Holden-bache from Mass Transmit, June 14, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.

      Great article DJ- I agree with you completely here. One possible way to make this work for everyone- ask the person when you exchange business cards if its okay to add them to your mailing list. If they agree, note this on their biz card- the date, time and location and enter that into their record when you add them to your list. Send a welcome email as soon as possible and follow up with a personal message. That way you form a human relationship and get them into your marketing process.

    3. Dj Waldow from Blue Sky Factory, June 14, 2010 at 4:50 p.m.

      Morgan - Why thank you, sir! That really means a lot coming from you. As you know (I hope) I have a ton of respect for you personally and professionally.

    4. Dj Waldow from Blue Sky Factory, June 14, 2010 at 4:50 p.m.

      Adam - Thanks! I LOVE that idea. Have you tried it?

    5. Mel Brickman from ad-marketing solutions, June 14, 2010 at 6:27 p.m.

      An important distinction. Too many of the business people I come in contact with are "victims" email saturation, thereby making them less open to the value of properly planned and executed email marketing.

    6. Lisa Fahoury from Fahoury Ink, June 15, 2010 at 8:50 a.m.

      Hallelujah! Can't tell you how often this issue comes up at networking events. How can otherwise-intelligent business people assume that my handing them a business card implies tacit permission to add me to their mass marketing blitz -- one that is likely irrelevant to my needs and often with no opt-out mechanism? A smart, thoughtful post on this annoying problem.

    7. Adam Holden-bache from Mass Transmit, June 15, 2010 at 11:54 a.m.

      DJ- yes- I've been doing that for a while now- never had any complaints. The hard part is remembering to ask. But once you do it a while it becomes second nature. And it seems to make a positive impression that you ask for permission and follow up on it.

    8. Alex Williams from Trendline Interactive, June 15, 2010 at 5 p.m.

      An even better "C" would be to give them a link to signup for themselves. That way you have a rock-solid opt-in record and they can choose their own preferences.

      Good points DJ.

    9. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, June 16, 2010 at 3 a.m.

      Gosh you have nailed it DJ. Don't market to someone unless they have asked or expect you to. Email Marketing is about 1. The List 2. The Relationship and 3. The Offer you have for them. Kurt Johansen Australia's Leading Email Marketing Strategist.

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