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Ken Magill

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On Email-Deliverability Folks and Anti-Drug Education

By Ken Magill
I have a theory about email marketing and deliverability.
It begins in sixth grade and my experience with anti-drug education.
I will never forget our gym teacher standing up on stage in assembly holding up a joint and saying: “One hit a dis, and your brain is Jell-o.”
I already considered this gym teacher a special kind of stupid. 
Among other gem-like activities, he would leave change on the locker room benches in an effort to tempt kids to pocket it. One day, not surprisingly, a kid did pocket the change. Our gym teacher got the kid to admit it and spanked him wet and bare-assed in front of the rest of us.
I took nothing he said seriously.
So when my first chance to try pot came along, I tried it. And guess what? It was fun. My brain was not Jell-o. “Wow, this is great,” I thought. “[Gym teacher] was lying. What else was he lying about?”
So I tried a bunch of other stuff that was commonly abused in the 70s and 80s. And I found out the hard way that my former gym teacher wasn’t lying about everything. Or maybe he was a broken-clock kind of right, as in even a broken clock is right twice a day.
I came out of the 70s and 80s okay. Some of my friends did not.
My experience also shaped the way I talk to my son about drugs and what they teach him in school.
“If your experience is like mine was, they’re going to compare pot to heroin, cocaine, meth, acid and other drugs like it’s all the same,” I have told him. “They’re full of crap. Pot’s illegal but pretty much harmless. The other stuff is dangerous to highly varying degrees. You can experiment with some of it and suffer no long-term effects. But then sometimes it can sneak up on you. We used to think cocaine was harmless. I have personally seen it ruin lives.”
Whether he will heed my warnings remains to be seen. He just turned 12. However, he is so risk averse, I doubt he’ll even smoke pot.
So what does this have to do with email deliverability? I suspect a lot of deliverability folks are the equivalent of my gym teacher standing on that stage with a joint 40 years ago.
“Buy one email list, and you’re screwed.”
No, I’m not saying they’re as stupid as that gym teacher. But I suspect many of them are as absolute.
I suspect they make a lot of black-and-white pronouncements. And when what they claim doesn’t pan out as direly as they predicted, the business/marketing side of the operation dismisses everything else they have to say and begins experimenting with the meth and cocaine equivalent of email marketing.
The fact is—in the U.S., anyway—a marketer can buy lists of email addresses and it can work like gangbusters. 
I once got a phone call from a couple of business-to-business marketers who had been blocklisted by Spamhaus after having mailed to a purchased list containing spam traps. After I gave them my usual spiel about how dangerous buying email lists is for precisely was had just happened to them, one of them said: “But we’ve been doing it for two years.”
When a deliverability professional has to get involved with a marketer is usually when something the marketer has done has blown up in their face.
The deliverability professional doesn’t see the marketers who buy email addresses and suffer no harm.
I suspect if the deliverability folks were a little less black and white in their pronouncements—and, yes, I’m painting in extremely broad strokes here—the business side would take them more seriously and both sides would spend less time talking past one another.

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