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Ken Magill

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Silverpop’s McDonald Responds to Transactional Critics

As reported here, last week’s article recommending adding marketing content to transactional emails drew criticism from some of email’s most knowledgeable professionals: Anne Mitchell, chief executive of ISIPP, the organization that offers email deliverability and accreditation service SuretyMail; Catherine Jefferson, anti-spam researcher and co-founder of the blog MainSleaze; and Andrew Barrett, director of ISP relations and deliverability for iContact.
I reached out to the main interview subject of last week’s piece, Loren McDonald, vice president of industry relations for marketing services provider Silverpop, to respond to last week’s critics.
Here is McDonald’s response:
I just read the comments from Anne, Catherine and Andrew and a couple of things:
1. As I think you and I discussed, Canada is a different issue. And with most transactional messages, you are probably going to have the physical mailing address of the recipient and can, therefore, not include the dynamic cross-sell content. But, CASL doesn't say that you cannot include marketing content in a transactional message, but just that doing so (including ANY marketing content) makes that message a marketing message which makes it subject to the consent and other requirements of CASL. Most marketers will soon, if they haven't already, remove pre-checked boxes and gain explicit consent during the purchase process, making their transactional messages with marketing content in compliance with CASL.
[Editor’s note: The CASL’s enforcement authority, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, has reportedly interpreted the CASL to define all transactional messages as commercial.]
2. Incorporating cross-sell and upsell content in transactional messages has been going on for years. Done well, this approach can not only provide additional revenue for brands, it can create value to the consumer. If a consumer has just purchased a particular product or products and sees a recommendation of an accessory, service, related product - it can enhance the value of their existing purchase and experience. Like ANY form of marketing, if done poorly, it can provide a bad experience. I don't know who Catherine is, but I find her comments to be very subjective and not in touch with the real world of email marketing. Her comments: "Some people don't mind marketing email. Others do, and mostly unsubscribe." Really? Mostly unsubscribe? The unsubscribe rate for marketing emails is actually quite low and if it was as bad as she claims, then the email marketing industry would be dead by now.
3. Lastly, regarding deliverability. Every email you send has the potential to be blocked or routed to the junk folder. If you are a smart email marketer and are following standard deliverability best practices and processes, your transactional messages that include some marketing content should be delivered just fine. If you find that the marketing content is causing deliverability problems, then tweak and fix, or potentially remove that content. But don't not include marketing content just because it "COULD cause deliverability" problems. Test it first. If it does cause problems, then pivot your approach. If not, enjoy the additional revenue that results and customers who have a good purchase experience with their add-on purchase(s).
McDonald also provided two examples of clients’ transactional messages that incorporate cross-sells:
Here they are:

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2014-06-18 12:44:45
Subject: The customer service angle

Hey Kelly: The topic came up because Silverpop put out a benchmark report saying, among many other things, that transactional emails have much higher engagement rates. I seized on that angle and did a piece saying Silverpop's stat was one more piece of evidence transactional messages should include marketing content. I figured it was a fairly obvious angle and was surprised when the objections arose. But when the objections did arise, I saw them as an opportunity to explore the issue further. Thanks! Ken
Posted by: Kelly Lorenz
Date: 2014-06-17 16:58:19
Subject: The customer service angle

I didn't see the original article, so Loren might have covered this there, but I feel all parties missed out on the customer service angle. Amazon has done recommendations incredibly well and really paved the way for these other marketers to promote "You may also like..." in a way that is seen as a customer service, not salesy/pushy! I'm a bit puzzled why this is such a controversial idea at this stage in the game; we've been talking about adding marketing content to transactional messages for years, why the sudden issue?