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Stupid Advice Watch: Email as 'Badgering'

By Ken Magill
The Internet is riddled with bad email-marketing advice. Okay, not exactly a thunderclap revelation.
But email marketing seems to draw its own particular types of bad advice.
The following quote is real and unfortunately, all too typical:
“Email marketing is incredibly valuable, but lots of companies use it to simply badger their customers week after week (or even several times per week) with one offer after another. Be sure to mix up your sales pitches with some informative articles and ideas, so your customers don’t feel like you’re just contacting them when you want something.”
There is so much wrong with that advice, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Heaven forbid a commercial email be perceived as commercial.
If an email marketer has permission to send, it is not badgering customers. It has been invited to send email to them.
Moreover, the marketer has been invited to send promotional email to them.
Consumers all over the world are smart enough to know when a commercial email arrives, it is intended to sell them something.
Commercial emailers don’t want “something” from the people on their lists. They want money from them. And they want to get that money by making offers recipients will perceive as worth their cash.
When Famous Smoke—my cigar merchant of choice—sends me an email, I assume it wants me to buy cigars and/or related accessories.
This is not to disparage content marketing, which can certainly be effective.
But mixing up sales pitches with articles and ideas for the sake of avoiding the perception that the marketer contacts recipients only when it wants something from them is infantile.
Whenever a commercial email is sent, no matter the content, its aim is financial. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Imagine the same piece of advice applied to other channels.
Telemarketing: Don’t just call them when you want to sell. Occasionally call just to say “hi.”
Direct mail: Send birthday greetings with no offers or calls to action. They’ll love you for it.
Online display advertising: Rotate in ads with smiley faces that say “Hope you’re having a fine day!”
Catalogs: Occasionally send them picture books of your employees with pithy little sayings under each photo. Customers and prospects will feel a more personal connection with your brand.
The reason email draws such silly advice is because it’s so cheap that the silliness isn’t as obvious as it would be on other channels where the idea of spending money without attempting to increase sales is clearly ludicrous.
Yes, email is quirky compared to other forms of direct marketing, the biggest quirk being the need to ask for permission to send messages.
But once permission is given, the commercial relationship is established in the affirmative on both ends.
There is no need to pretend a commercial-email relationship aimed at driving voluntary, value-for-value exchanges is anything other than what it is.

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