We have a covenant with our email subscribers. They provide their email address (and hopefully, permission) and we provide valuable content that they find worthwhile.
we email marketers have broken this covenant time and time again. We don't always get explicit permission. Many of our messages are untargeted, poorly timed and irrelevant. We
don't bother to customize or take into account the job title, ZIP code or lifecycle stage. We send way more frequently than is meaningful or welcome.
In a study
we did with 61 brand-name email marketers back in May, they reported it took an average of nine
days after sign-up for the first message to arrive -- and a shocking 30% of companies never sent any messages at all. Of the 70% who collected information that could be used to customize the
message, 75% never used it.
Now there is more heartbreaking news from a just-released follow-up study on the same set of companies that drills into a critical aspect of email marketing: the
unsubscribe process. Apparently, some otherwise smart marketers are not giving the unsubscribe the attention it needs as a valid part of their customers' holistic email brand experience.
The study, "Keeping the Subscriber Experience Positive After 'Unsubscribe Me,'"
found that 20% of top brand
marketers sent additional emails to subscribers after confirming an unsubscribe request, and 11% of the companies studied emailed subscribers more than 10 days after confirming an unsubscribe request
-- a violation of the federal CAN-SPAM Act.
You are likely shaking your head by now. Does this mean that the email marketers in the study are stupid or purposefully breaking
the law? Of course not. But it does mean that someone is not paying enough attention. When subscribers request off your file, by all means let them off without any troubles,
preferably immediately (aka: before the next mailing) and certainly within the timeframe prescribed by law.
Here's the rub: It's so hard for email marketers to let go
of the control we love. A simple example is our collective unwillingness to let subscribers choose their own frequency. Only two of the 45 companies we studied offered subscribers the
option to change the frequency of their emails at any point in the cycle (at point of collection or point of unsubscribe). If a customer or potential customer is interested in your products, but
they'd rather hear from you once a month vs. once a week, by all means give them that option and keep them on your list. Given the companies are barely following the basics, it is any wonder
that we are not optimizing the opt-out experience? And that's a pity, since there is still so much untapped opportunity in the email channel.
I look at these study results and
want to weep. Email marketing is such an incredible opportunity, and so many of us are wasting the opportunity. Not from lack of interest, expertise or technological advance. No, it's
because we are just not paying enough attention to a channel that is still perceived to be free.
No wonder subscribers complain in ever higher numbers, and ISPs and receivers block our
email. We haven't proven consistently, as an industry, that we can be trusted to respect the implicit covenant of the opt-in. As for marketers having control, that is now just a
fabulous memory of the past. It's certainly no longer true. With the advent of social media, our customers (business and consumer) are seeking and digesting information in totally new ways,
and often not the information we send. Our email marketing must adjust. And I think that is all good news for the industry. So that's the topic for my next column.
Meanwhile, please go right now and test your unsubscribe link. Do it personally. And make a note to do so every month, at least.