Brands try many forms of bribery to get people to respond to emails, from discounts to loyalty points. But here’s a new one: Pay people in bitcoin to respond. That’s the premise of a startup called Earn.com.
Consumers can name their own price. Judging by examples on the Earn.com website, that can run around $20.
“Replace your public email with an inbox that pays you,” the company says on its web site.
“Set up an Earn.com profile to receive paid messages from people outside your network. Keep the money, or donate it to charities like Black Girls Code.
“It's like LinkedIn InMail, except you get paid!”
Based on conventional direct-marketing wisdom, a person who has to be paid to respond is not a very good long-term prospect. And it depends on how you define a response — does it occur when someone replies with a query, or when they convert?
Don’t think this is some rabble-rousing scheme designed to harass businesspeople — the company is also offering it as a service to marketers:
“Stop sending cold emails and start getting responses,” it writes.
“Earn.com allows you to pay people to reply to mass emails, with 30-60% response rates in 24 hours.”
The whole plan has already drawn some negative comment.
“This is the dumbest s***,” writes U.S. journalist Ryan Mac, according to Australia’s News.com. ” I just emailed someone and they’re asking that I pay in order to get a response. This monster is asking for $20.”
That said, this service does raise a broader question: Is pay-per-play the future of email marketing?
Probably not. The focus of this service is email from “unapproved strangers,” as News.com puts it. Responsible marketers use permission-based lists, so if anyone is hampered by this, it will be mass spammers.
Also, we wonder if the varying bitcoin payments can be automated. The way it works is that the sender gets a message stating the price for a response. This may not be effective at scale.
But now for a President’s Day history lesson. Something like this existed almost 200 years ago, before the U.S. Post Office began charging for postage up front.
In those days, recipients usually paid the postage, if it was paid at all. But few people paid — General Zachary Taylor refused to pay for the letter telling him he had been nominated for the Presidency of the United States.
There was some direct mail, mostly sent by lottery operators who paid up front because they knew that people wouldn’t spring for an advertising letter.
That doesn’t mean they wanted to pay for return responses, though: B.B. Mars & Co. of Baltimore warned customers: “No unpaid letters received in our office.”
Most likely, today’s marketers will refuse to pay too.