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Stupid Expert Watch: Email 'Outmoded,' 'Irritates People'

7/29/14
 
By Ken Magill
 
Canada’s craziest anti-spam law in the history of the universe is having its entirely predictable effects on at least one Canadian marketer.
 
And it’s not a stretch to think this case is representative of what’s going on in thousands of businesses.
 
According to the Globe and Mail, Macadamian Technologies has been trying to get clients on its email list to opt in. The reponse? Ten percent have done so. That’s one list decimated by 90 percent because of one entirely unnecessary piece of terribly written legislation.
 
And if the anecdote wasn’t crazy enough in and of itself, the Globe and Mail brought in some experts to weigh in on what Macadamian should do now that email marketing has essentially been choked off for the company.
 
“Macadamian now finds itself looking for alternate strategies that will provide the same type of reach it found through its database,” the article said.
 
Enter Kersi Antia, associate professor of marketing at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario.
 
Here is what he reportedly had to say:
 
“E-mail based solicitation is really all about sending out large numbers of blanketed rather than targeted kinds of messages. Even if a firm gets lucky doing that, the best they can hope for is about a 1- or 2-percent response rate. It’s an outmoded method of doing business. It irritates people and engenders exactly the kind of thing that the CASL has been a response to.”
 
Really. A marketing professor reportedly said that.
 
Obviously, Antia knows diddly doo dah about email marketing. He’s clearly never heard of triggered emails, such as abandoned-cart messages, and how well they work. He also apparently hasn’t done the arithmetic and figured out even 1 and 2 percent response rates in email can be staggeringly profitable.
 
Moreover, the vast majority of people would most certainly rather hear from companies they do business with by email over every other channel.
 
Antia’s marketing alternative email marketing? Social media. 
 
“Social media creates buzz, and viral marketing takes on a life of its own,” he wrote.
 
Except for when it doesn’t. The vast majority of social media marketing doesn’t go viral. Viral is lucky. It’s impossible to predict in advance what will go viral. 
 
Some of my work has gone viral by trade-publishing standards. I never can tell in advance what will take off. In the thousands of pieces I’ve written over the years, the most viral my work ever went was over one line: “There is little that says ‘I am a loser’ more than an AOL address.”
 
The piece didn’t go viral over its general topic. It went viral over one line. And much of the traction was from people the line irritated. To the newly irritated: Sorry. Again.
 
When social media works, it’s great. But it often doesn’t work. Email marketing always works, even for marketers who are really bad at it. And there are a lot of those.
 
So what qualifies Antia to pontificate about email marketing? Here’s his bio:
 
“Kersi D. Antia is an associate professor of marketing at the Ivey Business School, Western University, Canada. His research focuses on the governance of inter-organizational relationships - franchising, distribution channel relationships, and strategic alliances - and the impact of technology on these relationships. Professor Antia's current projects involve identifying the drivers and consequences of contractual terms in distribution channel relationships, and the evolving ownership structure decisions made by franchise systems as they penetrate new markets.”
 
Notice nowhere does it say anything about direct, email or digital marketing. Antia’s response to the reporter’s question should have been: “I’m not qualified to answer that. Having expertise in one area of marketing doesn’t necessarily translate into expertise in another.”
 
Next up: Mark Hanley, manager, entrepreneur centre, Kingston Economic Development Corp.:
 
“Why not consider going back to the age-old tradition of print media? I realize it’s more expensive and it has to be distributed in a reliable manner. But print media still has its place.
 
“The other option is cold calling with one-on-one personal telephone calls. That is very time consuming. But blast e-mails represent a very lazy way of marketing. Businesses should consider taking more of a targeted marketing approach.”
 
Again we’re confronted with the ignorant assumption email marketing is by definition non-targeted when it can be some of the most accurately targeted marketing in use.
 
And lazy? There is nothing lazy about permission-based email marketing. From painstakingly building a list to managing it properly, email marketing takes thought and labor. It is the one channel that involves more difficult judgment calls than any other.
 
Then there’s the recommendation to cold call, the most irritating form of marketing in existence. So irritating, Canada has a national do-not-call list just like the U.S.
 
Hanley’s right that print has its place but it’s a choice direct marketers shouldn’t have to make. They should be able to do both where it suits them.
 
If the Globe and Mail would have contacted someone who knew what they were talking about—I humbly nominate me—he would have said:
 
“Your lawmakers just took email marketing away from you and you’re asking for alternatives? Newsflash: There aren’t any. You’re screwed. Or at least crippled.
 
“Your legislators kneecapped you for no rational reason. They listened to advice from a bunch of myopic crusaders who finally got their way in an anti-spam law and think they’ve done something good. They’re patting themselves on their collective back right now for having done the email-marketing equivalent of filling the Hindenburg with hydrogen and adding a smokers’ lounge.
 
“You, however, know from immediate experience they’ve done nothing but damage. You’re paying the price for their ignorance. Get pissed. Be vocal. Now is not the time to be stereotypically Canadian polite. Do everything in your power to get this monstrosity of a law repealed.”
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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: Andrew Barrett
Date: 2014-07-29 20:10:27
Subject: Too soon.

I'm not sure why this sender has decided that they have to surrender 90% of their list. Assuming that they have implicit consent from recipients, they have almost three years to convert those recipients into express consenters. Why are they giving up after just 30 days? Love or hate CASL, I'm kind of ambivalent about it. But I have been hearing marketers whine about how hard permission is for almost two decades. I wish Canada would outlaw that, too.

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