The Dark Side of Willy Nilly List Building

The Dark Side of Email List Building

A purchase does not imply consent for ongoing email marketing communications. Nor does an event registration. So why do so many organizations insist on adding names to their in-house email lists based on a consent that any transaction automatically implies, rather than ask for explicit, permission?

I’m from the “just act like a decent human being” school of thought. That means I think companies should act like real people and only email those folks they know that actually want to hear from them. They ought to let thoughtfulness drive the bus, not shrewdness or email legislation loopholes.

However, that’s often not the case, and businesses grow lists without real consent because list building continues to be a numbers game in the email marketing industry. Despite all the cries for permission-based email, all the best practices around opt-in, all the hand wringing over cluttered inboxes and email-weary consumers, there’s still a tendency to go for quantity over quality.

This approach might grow list size, but it won’t necessarily grow sales and in fact, has three serious consequences:

  • Negative brand impact
    No way am I the only one annoyed when I make a purchase or register for an event with a company new to me, and suddenly I’m on the receiving end of daily email messages. Just because I bought that drill or signed up for that webinar does not mean I want a long-term relationship with a brand. It only means I wanted the drill for a project, or the education promised by the webinar. When I get emails from a brand like that, I immediately have a negative feeling about that brand. It might not be a conscious feeling but trust me, it’s there. And each new email reminds me of my negative feelings about that brand.
  • Lower deliverability
    A lack of engagement at the inbox can lower an email deliverability rate as ISPs use lack of engagement to judge whether that email is wanted or spam. If brand X sends me emails on a regular basis and I open a lot of these messages, the ISPs know I want to hear from brand X. On the other hand, if that brand continues to email me and I don’t open the emails, that is an indication that I consider brand X spam or at least or low value. That lack of engagement can cause an ISP to no longer deliver emails from brand X to some inboxes.
  • Spam complaints
    Some people will report email as spam rather than go through the unsubscribe process. They don’t realize (or care) the repercussions of doing so. They only know they don’t want to get emails from a certain organization any longer—or never wanted them in the first place—and reporting them as spam is seen as a quick fix. And nothing good comes from spam complaints.

It’s simple; if you plan to send me email, just make your intentions clear and give me options. I suspect we’d hear fewer consumer complaints about email if more companies acted like decent human beings, because a lot of unwanted email would cease to exist.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is the Founder of Email Industries and Publisher of Email Critic. Connect him everywhere, here.

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