Mailing Inactives Makes No Cents: Cohen
By Ken Magill
As the debate over whether to mail inactive email addresses continues, Jordan Cohen says those who are arguing for treating inactive addresses like live ones are missing one critical point: the money involved.
“I’m not going to touch on the deliverability issue [that may or may not arise from mailing to inactive email addresses] because that’s all over the place,” said the vice president of business development for Pontiflex. “But there are far more important reasons from an old-school direct-marketing perspective for removing, or at least severely reducing the cadence at which you’re sending to inactive names.”
Cohen was responding to arguments made here last week in which Dela Quist, CEO of email marketing agency Alchemy Worx, said, among other things, that there is no ROI in removing inactive names.
“He is imagining a world in which email costs nothing to send,” said Cohen. “This is a myth that we’re all guilty of perpetuating. Any marketer using a good email service provider is spending tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions per year on email deployment alone.”
Of course email is vastly less expensive to send on a per-piece basis than direct mail, said Cohen.
“But direct mailers aren’t sending mail every single day to 10 million, 15 million or a hundred million people,” he said. “Groupon is sending email to 150 million subscribers daily. It all adds up.”
As a result, Cohen said: “Unless you have an unlimited budget for email marketing and your CEO or CMO have given you carte blanche to spend as much as you want to send to your entire list every single day, [and] unless you are a high-value vertical like travel, entertainment or jewelry, it makes no sense to adopt a mantra of ‘inactive, schminactive,’ or treat them all the same and never remove inactive names.”
[Note: By using the phrase inactive, schminactive, Cohen was referring to last week’s headline, which contained my words, not Quist’s.]
The typical email marketer who has a finite number of sends available to them in a given month must be smart about what they send to whom, said Cohen.
“I’m all for frequency and mailing more, but what [smart marketers] are doing is upping the frequency to the smaller portion of the most engaged names on their list and reducing the frequency to those who aren’t showing signs of life,” he said. “Whether they’re doing it for deliverability purposes is neither here nor there. There doing it because that’s what makes the most money.”
Cohen also said another argument those who are for mailing inactive names have been making—that messages to inactives have branding value—is at best idealistic.
“Email marketing department [executives] are not going to the CMO and saying: ‘Hey, if you give us more money to spend on email deployment to people who aren’t opening and clicking or showing any signs of life, this is a wonderful branding channel,’” he said.
“The CMO and CEO would laugh. They would say: ‘We’re giving you direct-response, ROI-driven marketing dollars for the email channel. If we want to do a branding campaign, we’re going to buy a commercial or a print ad. How can you sit there and say ‘from’ lines and subject lines are on par with the other channels we have at our disposal when it comes to branding campaigns?’
“Email marketers have to report back and say: ‘We spent a dollar for every thousand emails we deployed and we got $50 back,” said Cohen. “They have to come back with that dollars-and-cents number, and when they come back and that number is decreasing, they get in trouble for it.”
Cohen added he doesn’t necessarily advocate removing inactive names. But he does advocate “dramatically reducing the volume you send to inactives and focusing more of your spending and frequency on those names that are actually responding and measurable.”