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Ken Magill

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Hotmail Changes Cause a Ruckus ... Or So I'm Told

12/20/11

By Ken Magill

Some changes Microsoft has made to Hotmail caused a great deal of consternation among some of the email marketers on Bill McCloskey’s discussion list Only Influencers, according to a blog post by deliverability expert Laura Atkins.

I can’t verify her claim. I’m not allowed to take part in Only Influencers’ discussions—something about a reputation for stirring up trouble.

In any case, a post on the WindowsTeamBlog revealed some eye-popping statistics. For example, just 14 percent of email anymore is person-to-person.

More than 50 percent of the messages in people’s inboxes are newsletters and deals. Seventeen percent are social media updates, and just two percent are actual spam.

Also, more than 75 percent of spam complaints Microsoft receives are not complaints about actual spam.

It “actually turns out to be unwanted graymail that they receive as a result of having signed up on a legitimate website,” according to the blog post. “So we decided in our upcoming release to add five new features that help customers take back control of their inbox,” the post continued.

Among the five features are a one-click unsubscribe button to help email recipients stop getting messages they don’t want, a newsletter categorization tool to help recipients identify and organize them, a custom-category feature, and a “schedule cleanup” feature that allows recipients to keep only the latest messages from senders and delete messages as they get old.

Another new addition is a folder feature that allows recipients to easily move messages—including future ones—to different folders.

This last feature is apparently particularly troubling to some, according to Atkins.

“From a marketer’s standpoint, it is a challenge because we want to get our customers’ attention, and it is harder to do that if these messages are going into a separate box,” wrote one marketer, according to Atkins.

With all due respect: Nonsense. If a recipient takes the time to do anything with a maketer’s message other than report it as spam, it’s a positive development.

Atkins writes that she believes marketers rely on people being lazy.

Respectfully, I say nonsense here, too. [I read Atkins’ blog every day and am in regular contact with her.]

Marketers’ tactics have nothing to do with customer-and-prospect laziness. It’s inertia—the most powerful force in marketing.

Sales is all about inertia, overcoming it in the case of getting people to actively buy, and letting inertia work its magic in the case of negative-option selling—like Gevalia coffee—where people get a regular shipment until they forbid it.

Someone taking the time to categorize and organize a marketer’s message means the force of inertia has been broken—maybe not broken to the point of a sale, but broken in a positive sense, nonetheless.

At the risk of stating the-should-be obvious, here are a few observations on Hotmail’s stats:

First, to the thankfully dwindling number of people who think email isn’t and shouldn’t be a commercial channel: Email is clearly primarily a commercial channel now. You’re irrelevant. Shut up.

To those who are still complaining about spam: The problem’s been handled. From a recipient standpoint, it’s now a non-issue. Find something else to grouse about.

And to marketers who have been complaining about Hotmail’s changes: Get over it. You’re doing the equivalent of saying the weather isn’t fair. You’re right. It isn’t. But there’s nothing you can do beyond reacting properly.

Send people messages they want to receive and Hotmail’s new changes shouldn’t be a problem. Heck, send people messages they want and Hotmail’s changes should boost your click and conversion rates.

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