Commentary

Horrifying Email Marketing Requests

We’ve all gotten some scary, odd, or downright laughable email marketing requests from clients, co-workers and bosses over the years. October, a month that features Halloween’s best frights, is an excellent time to remember the spirit of horrifying requests past, and talk about how to move beyond them.

1. Why can’t I spam my clients? Just as CAN-SPAM was enacted, my VP of sales asked me if I could send her a file of her entire client list’s email addresses. She thought it would be a good idea to load them into Outlook and send a daily email to them, as a group.

Eek! I tried to gently explain the concepts of relevance, spam, and CAN-SPAM, but made no headway. All she heard was “no,” and she was not happy to hear that.
As I discussed this horrifying request with the general manager of the company, we agreed that it was a good thing we could prevent this person from getting into the system herself.

Lesson learned: Cutting off access can often be the only way to save people from themselves, so be diligent about user IDs, logins, and passwords protocols.

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2. But I need to move this product! While we were working with a large retailer, one of the buyers asked us to send an email about a singing bear doll to the entire list of about 15 million people. (“Buyers” are the people who decide what merchandise you’ll be able to buy through that brand, and this one had committed to too many singing bear dolls and was desperate to get rid of them).  

This buyer wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and pushed his request up to the CEO, while we gaped in horror at the prospect.

Ultimately, we decided to negotiate. Instead of dedicating an entire email to singing bears, we only had to put a banner in two of the emails that would have other (more relevant) products as well.

 Lesson learned: imaginative use of real estate in the email can help manage internal constituents who have more clout than you.  

3. We should capture 100 million email addresses. While I was getting to know a new client from a very well-known U.S.-only brand, my team was told by my boss’ boss that he had spoken with the CEO about email address capture efforts. Wow, imagine email address capture making it to a C-level conversation! They agreed that in three years the brand would be able to send to 100 million email addresses.

For reference, there are only about 150 million email addresses in the U.S., so there were a few jokes about adding zombies and ghosts to our contact list to make our numbers (sort of like dead people on the voting rolls). Our education efforts and protests fell on deaf ears, and our clients pushed forward with an aggressive email append effort that ultimately wasn’t executed correctly and failed.

We were able to help rescue the client, toss the bad records, and do an e-append the right way later. The results from our successful rescue effort were of course fewer (but better quality) email addresses on file. The aggressive goals were abandoned, which was also a success of a sort.

Lesson learned: When the C-suite starts talking about email marketing, sometimes you have to stand aside and let scary stuff happen, so you can move forward with less fear and smarter goals later.

Email marketing can be a scary place. What’s your worst horror story? Share it in the comments.

1 comment about "Horrifying Email Marketing Requests ".
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  1. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct LLC, October 9, 2017 at 9:33 a.m.

    Paula, absolutely! Across all media, it's always a good idea to make sure user id's and passwords are individual, not used by a group. It's sometimes the only thing that saves you. Thanks for commenting!

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