Rebuttal: Email's Job 1 is Revenue, Not Conventional Wisdom
By Christopher Marriott
Editor’s note: Last week, I published a negative opinion piece on a suggestion digital marketing consultant Christopher Marriott made in a column on iMediaConnection that marketers should consider emailing people who have visited their sites but failed to do anything other than click around.
I headlined the piece: “Worst. Idea. Ever.”
I also invited Marriott to write a rebuttal. He was kind enough to do so. Here is what he had to say:
I’ve had a lot of bad ideas in my time. Many of my friends were only too happy to point that out to me in the wake of Ken’s newsletter last week. Like the time I used my first pick in a fantasy football draft to take a kicker. Or the time I ordered a “bowl of death” at a Korean restaurant (I didn’t know which would kill me first, the temperature or the spice).
But I must beg to differ with Ken regarding what he labeled the “Worst. Idea. Ever.” He was referring to my suggestion that sending an unsolicited email to someone who visited your website was potentially a great new tactic for email marketers (or at least something worth a look). Now to be honest, I as I wrote that column for iMediaConnection I knew I was touching the third rail of email marketing—sending an email to anyone other than someone who has subscribed to receive emails from you.
I find it interesting just how radioactive that topic is among the best and the brightest in the email marketing world. I suspect part of the reason this is so is that we email marketers are tremendously sensitive to how we and the industry are perceived by the rest of the marketing community.
There may even be a bit of an inferiority complex at play here. The uneasy feeling many of us have that the industry is looked down on as disreputable (spammers) and nothing more than digital stamp lickers has resulted in our community being more intolerant than anyone else in the universe (well except maybe Spamhaus) of anything that has the faintest whiff of spam. The sentiment for double opt-in is greater in the email marketing community than it is anywhere else. The condemnation of any email than is sent without prior permission is louder. And the denial that email is good for anything other than remarketing to existing customers is stronger.
This attitude is the primary reason why there isn’t a lot of boundary pushing in the email marketing world. Innovation focuses on the appearance and content of emails, not how email can further integrate with other channels and tactics. Including acquisition channels and tactics.
Now let’s get something straight: CAN-SPAM does not make it illegal to send someone an email without his or her permission. It makes it illegal for that email not to provide an easy way to opt-out from ever receiving another email from you. And it makes it illegal to not honor that opt-out.
Email marketers know this in their heads, but they don’t believe it in their hearts. Hence the ringing condemnation by Ken of my perfectly legal suggestion that sending a follow-up email to an anonymous visitor to your web site is a good way to keep the conversation going.
Folks, we are bombarded every day by thousands of marketing messages that we didn’t ask to receive. Ad agencies don’t feel badly that we are forced to watch TV commercials that interrupt our favorite shows. No one feels uneasy about the display ads that clutter up our favorite web sites. I’m of the opinion that it’s great that millions of people see emails that we create because they raised their hands and asked to see them, but that doesn’t mean we should have any hesitation in sending marketing messages to people who haven’t raised their hands. This makes me no different than every other non-email marketer in the world.
Does anyone really think that the major ISPs frown on marketers sending unsolicited emails because they really care what their users think about them? Trust me, if they were paid per email delivered they would be as happy as a cop in a donut factory to send all the unsolicited email marketers wanted to send.
You never hear the USPS grumbling about having to deliver unsolicited (junk) mail. They’d be out of business without it! ISPs frown on unsolicited email because it adds to their cost of providing email services to their users. Well guess what? That shouldn’t be our problem!
So here’s the bottom line. Our No. 1 responsibility is to maximize the revenue generated by the email channel for our clients or our companies. To ignore or not explore the acquisition value of email in conjunction with other channels means we are failing to fulfill our mission.
I’m not suggesting that we return to the days where marketers rented and emailed to dubiously sourced lists. But ideas like I discussed in my infamous column should be explored as part of our due diligence for our companies and our clients. We shouldn’t let conventional wisdom or anything else get in the way of that.