Two small cans of Spam. One is closed and the ...Image via Wikipedia

According to the Email Marketing Metrics Report from MailerMailer published early this year, the open rate for email marketing pieces stood at 13.98 percent in the second half of 2007. That number was down from 16.11 percent in the first half of the year and 17.20 percent in the last half of 2006.

MailerMailer’s analysis is of their own customers, but generally match numbers from around the web.

Open rates certainly vary by industry. According to the same study, banking and finance have a 28.84 percent open rate. General consumer products, though were at 13.66 percent, even lower than the overall average. Heck, even computer and Internet companies notched a 10.41 percent open rate while the consultant (pay attention social media “expert” friends with your ahead of the curve smarts) had a measly 7.6 percent of his or her emails opened.

And click rates? How about an overall average of 2.9 percent (of the total, not of the 13.98 percent opened, which is perhaps the only positive statistic I gleaned from the report).

So if you send an email to 100 people, you’re lucky if three of them click to visit something you’ve asked them to.

And you email marketers out there are welcome to argue that most emails aren’t written well and you didn’t develop the strategy and your numbers are higher. I’ll just go ahead and call bullshit now. If you were so great, you wouldn’t be clamoring for approval on a B-Lister blog. Save it.

Less than three percent? Think of that, then consider that, according to research firm IDC, 97 billion email marketing messages were predicted for 2007. Surely it will be over 100 billion this year.

Is it just me or does the math not seem worth it? Are marketers that stupid?

Okay, now it’s time for Jason to bring it back to center a bit. Smart people like Malayna Williams pointed out to me this week that open rates are a flawed metric. Open rates are dependent upon images being accessed and viewed. If images are blocked, as they are in many email software’s preview panes, or if the email is accessed on a mobile device, the message may be seen and read, but not “opened.” For the preview pane reason alone, Malayna contends that design is critical.

“I think every single email should be designed so that anyone viewing it through a preview pane with images blocked can see all the pertinent content. I look at open rates every day and I can tell you that when the content is good and visible through the preview pane the open rates are much higher.”

The simple fact of the matter is that spam filters were created to get rid of email marketing. Name an email provider or company server that doesn’t have one. We as a people have said, “I do not want this.” Yet marketers continue to produce them. Why?

If the success rate to click through is less than three percent, certainly the conversion is lower. By attrition alone, you would think companies would wise up and toss email marketing out the window.

Oh, wait. I’m talking about the same people who still budget money for pay-per-click and static banner ads. My bad.

Now, not all email marketing is evil. There are opt-in programs. If our customers raise their hand for something, we give it to them. I would argue we should find more engaging methods of delivering our messages, but generally have no issues with this type of outreach since our publics have asked for inclusion.

Harry Hoover at My Creative Team (and if you’re not reading his blog, you should, by the way) had an interesting thing to say about the opt-in version of email marketing:

“Email is not a customer acquisition tool anymore. It is a customer retention tool. This is still marketing, but you are sending something to people with whom you have a relationship, and it is something they have asked for: content.”

He reports his email newsletters have an open rate of 35-45 percent and that’s his key metric since they aren’t full of links to click through.

So, opt-in programs aside, isn’t it time we realized that as much as we hate spam in our inboxes, we deserve 1,000 times more if we keep recommending email marketing solutions to clients?

Perhaps I’m unreasonably biased. I think of social media as the anti-spam. It’s about relationships. It’s about dialog. It’s about listening to your customers individually and collectively, not yelling at a bunch of them all at once.

It’s also about being human, even as a company or brand. You wouldn’t take over the PA system of a plane to try and sell that antique lamp your aunt left you that you can’t stand would you? (Don’t answer that out loud. You’ll embarrass yourself.) Why would you let your company do the same thing?

Just like public relations professionals using the BCC field to reach a number of media outlets is, and will always be, spam, using it to reach a group of potential customers is as well. No matter the intent.

I would even argue that the BCC field in an email should be called the Spam Field. It’ll give us pause before using it, that’s for sure.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • rajkhera

    Jason, thanks for your post mentioning our metrics report. One other point to note is that more people are viewing emails on mobile devices, which often disable image downloading to speed up load times. As a result, someone might have read an email but doesn't get tracked as an “open”. So, while open rate statistics show fewer opens, some of those marked as “unopened” were actually read. Needless to say, it's a difficult statistic to measure.

    Raj Khera
    CEO MailerMailer

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for stopping by Raj. I'm glad to know the open rate flaws seem to be agreed upon by many. I would love to hear more in the future about how companies like yours are trying to combat that with other metrics for mobile or image-blocking devices or software. Thanks for publishing your statistics for all to see. Fascinating material.

  • rajkhera

    Jason, thanks for your post mentioning our metrics report. One other point to note is that more people are viewing emails on mobile devices, which often disable image downloading to speed up load times. As a result, someone might have read an email but doesn't get tracked as an “open”. So, while open rate statistics show fewer opens, some of those marked as “unopened” were actually read. Needless to say, it's a difficult statistic to measure.

    Raj Khera
    CEO MailerMailer

  • rajkhera

    Jason, thanks for your post mentioning our metrics report. One other point to note is that more people are viewing emails on mobile devices, which often disable image downloading to speed up load times. As a result, someone might have read an email but doesn't get tracked as an “open”. So, while open rate statistics show fewer opens, some of those marked as “unopened” were actually read. Needless to say, it's a difficult statistic to measure.

    Raj Khera
    CEO MailerMailer

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog Jason Baer

    Jason, I love your stuff, but I think you're way off base here.

    Email is by far the most ubiquitous tactic, because it works. Everybody has email, everybody gets email, and done correctly (segmented, personalized, relevant, requested) email is a tremendously powerful retention tactic that can generate huge (and measurable) ROI.

    As you state, open rate is no longer relevant, and most email pros no longer even track it rigorously. In terms of CTR, 2.9% (which is for all email, not for retention email which is usually in the 10%+ range) is MUCH higher than banners, most PPC, direct mail, TV, radio, print, outdoor and basically any other medium in existence (your mileage may vary).

    I may not be as deep into social media as you are, but I work in it every day. Are you suggesting that the CTR for social media is higher than email? If you put up a comment on a blog, do you believe that more than 3 out of 100 readers click that link? If you put out a social release for a client, do more than 3% of that clients customers see the release? In some cases, sure. Consistently, I doubt it.

    No question that social media is extremely powerful in that it is a conversation, not a monologue (and email is a monologue). However, not everybody wants to have a conversation with every brand they know. If there's a sale on a sweater I like, an email telling me so is more efficient than any sort of online conversation in that regard.

    I wish I could find the link (emailstatcenter.com perhaps) but several studies of corporate marketing execs have found that email is the single most effective tactic – even better than search – in their marketing arsenal. True, most of those surveyed probably are not doing much in social media right now. But, for the sake of argument, let's say social media is the best and most effective (if somewhat difficult to measure for now) online tactic.

    If true, then email is second. Hardly befitting the thrashing you've given it.

    As it relates to SPAM email specifically, you're totally right. It sucks, it hurts all email marketers, and more importantly, it doesn't work. But opt-in email does work, and consumer satisfaction with GOOD email is generally very high.

    Jason Baer
    Convince & Convert
    http://www.convinceandconvert.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Jason — Thanks for the impassioned response. If you read me regularly you know I love it when folks take me to task on my opinions!

      However, I think you may have missed the part of the post where I say that opt-in email marketing is good –

      “Now, not all email marketing is evil. There are opt-in programs. If our customers raise their hand for something, we give it to them. I would argue we should find more engaging methods of delivering our messages, but generally have no issues with this type of outreach since our publics have asked for inclusion.”

      Your arguments are sound but even you agree with me that “opt-in email does work, and customer satisfaction with GOOD email is generally very high.” You also point out in your initial thoughts that “done correctly” correlates to “requested.”

      My rant is about the other kind.

      And I don't think I ever indicated social media had better click thru rates. I do think it is a better online tactic than unsolicited email campaigns. Sure, I'm arguing specific wording here, but I want to make sure you understand what I wrote isn't indicative of what you've called me out on.

      Good, targeted, relevant and, yes, requested, email marketing is going to show high returns and measurably better success than a blog or social network application, for instance. All email marketing is not bad. The point I hoped to get across is that the BCC field, used to blast emails to lists of consumers who have not asked to be contacted by a specific brand or company, is a prerequisite to being a spammer. Still, many marketers think the email blast to lists of people, regardless of how they were acquired, is a good idea. Unless it's an opt-in list for that product or service, it's not.

      As always, though, thank you for keeping me honest.

      • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog Jason Baer

        Always a pleasure. I'm glad we generally agree. You had me worried (either about you, or about me)!

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Don't worry. I generally bring about concern in most people. Heh.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog jasonbaer

    Jason, I love your stuff, but I think you're way off base here.

    Email is by far the most ubiquitous tactic, because it works. Everybody has email, everybody gets email, and done correctly (segmented, personalized, relevant, requested) email is a tremendously powerful retention tactic that can generate huge (and measurable) ROI.

    As you state, open rate is no longer relevant, and most email pros no longer even track it rigorously. In terms of CTR, 2.9% (which is for all email, not for retention email which is usually in the 10%+ range) is MUCH higher than banners, most PPC, direct mail, TV, radio, print, outdoor and basically any other medium in existence (your mileage may vary).

    I may not be as deep into social media as you are, but I work in it every day. Are you suggesting that the CTR for social media is higher than email? If you put up a comment on a blog, do you believe that more than 3 out of 100 readers click that link? If you put out a social release for a client, do more than 3% of that clients customers see the release? In some cases, sure. Consistently, I doubt it.

    No question that social media is extremely powerful in that it is a conversation, not a monologue (and email is a monologue). However, not everybody wants to have a conversation with every brand they know. If there's a sale on a sweater I like, an email telling me so is more efficient than any sort of online conversation in that regard.

    I wish I could find the link (emailstatcenter.com perhaps) but several studies of corporate marketing execs have found that email is the single most effective tactic – even better than search – in their marketing arsenal. True, most of those surveyed probably are not doing much in social media right now. But, for the sake of argument, let's say social media is the best and most effective (if somewhat difficult to measure for now) online tactic.

    If true, then email is second. Hardly befitting the thrashing you've given it.

    As it relates to SPAM email specifically, you're totally right. It sucks, it hurts all email marketers, and more importantly, it doesn't work. But opt-in email does work, and consumer satisfaction with GOOD email is generally very high.

    Jason Baer
    Convince & Convert
    http://www.convinceandconvert.com

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

    Jason, I love your stuff, but I think you're way off base here.

    Email is by far the most ubiquitous tactic, because it works. Everybody has email, everybody gets email, and done correctly (segmented, personalized, relevant, requested) email is a tremendously powerful retention tactic that can generate huge (and measurable) ROI.

    As you state, open rate is no longer relevant, and most email pros no longer even track it rigorously. In terms of CTR, 2.9% (which is for all email, not for retention email which is usually in the 10%+ range) is MUCH higher than banners, most PPC, direct mail, TV, radio, print, outdoor and basically any other medium in existence (your mileage may vary).

    I may not be as deep into social media as you are, but I work in it every day. Are you suggesting that the CTR for social media is higher than email? If you put up a comment on a blog, do you believe that more than 3 out of 100 readers click that link? If you put out a social release for a client, do more than 3% of that clients customers see the release? In some cases, sure. Consistently, I doubt it.

    No question that social media is extremely powerful in that it is a conversation, not a monologue (and email is a monologue). However, not everybody wants to have a conversation with every brand they know. If there's a sale on a sweater I like, an email telling me so is more efficient than any sort of online conversation in that regard.

    I wish I could find the link (emailstatcenter.com perhaps) but several studies of corporate marketing execs have found that email is the single most effective tactic – even better than search – in their marketing arsenal. True, most of those surveyed probably are not doing much in social media right now. But, for the sake of argument, let's say social media is the best and most effective (if somewhat difficult to measure for now) online tactic.

    If true, then email is second. Hardly befitting the thrashing you've given it.

    As it relates to SPAM email specifically, you're totally right. It sucks, it hurts all email marketers, and more importantly, it doesn't work. But opt-in email does work, and consumer satisfaction with GOOD email is generally very high.

    Jason Baer
    Convince & Convert
    http://www.convinceandconvert.com

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for stopping by Raj. I'm glad to know the open rate flaws seem to be agreed upon by many. I would love to hear more in the future about how companies like yours are trying to combat that with other metrics for mobile or image-blocking devices or software. Thanks for publishing your statistics for all to see. Fascinating material.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for stopping by Raj. I'm glad to know the open rate flaws seem to be agreed upon by many. I would love to hear more in the future about how companies like yours are trying to combat that with other metrics for mobile or image-blocking devices or software. Thanks for publishing your statistics for all to see. Fascinating material.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Jason — Thanks for the impassioned response. If you read me regularly you know I love it when folks take me to task on my opinions!

    However, I think you may have missed the part of the post where I say that opt-in email marketing is good –

    “Now, not all email marketing is evil. There are opt-in programs. If our customers raise their hand for something, we give it to them. I would argue we should find more engaging methods of delivering our messages, but generally have no issues with this type of outreach since our publics have asked for inclusion.”

    Your arguments are sound but even you agree with me that “opt-in email does work, and customer satisfaction with GOOD email is generally very high.” You also point out in your initial thoughts that “done correctly” correlates to “requested.”

    My rant is about the other kind.

    And I don't think I ever indicated social media had better click thru rates. I do think it is a better online tactic than unsolicited email campaigns. Sure, I'm arguing specific wording here, but I want to make sure you understand what I wrote isn't indicative of what you've called me out on.

    Good, targeted, relevant and, yes, requested, email marketing is going to show high returns and measurably better success than a blog or social network application, for instance. All email marketing is not bad. The point I hoped to get across is that the BCC field, used to blast emails to lists of consumers who have not asked to be contacted by a specific brand or company, is a prerequisite to being a spammer. Still, many marketers think the email blast to lists of people, regardless of how they were acquired, is a good idea. Unless it's an opt-in list for that product or service, it's not.

    As always, though, thank you for keeping me honest.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Jason — Thanks for the impassioned response. If you read me regularly you know I love it when folks take me to task on my opinions!

    However, I think you may have missed the part of the post where I say that opt-in email marketing is good –

    “Now, not all email marketing is evil. There are opt-in programs. If our customers raise their hand for something, we give it to them. I would argue we should find more engaging methods of delivering our messages, but generally have no issues with this type of outreach since our publics have asked for inclusion.”

    Your arguments are sound but even you agree with me that “opt-in email does work, and customer satisfaction with GOOD email is generally very high.” You also point out in your initial thoughts that “done correctly” correlates to “requested.”

    My rant is about the other kind.

    And I don't think I ever indicated social media had better click thru rates. I do think it is a better online tactic than unsolicited email campaigns. Sure, I'm arguing specific wording here, but I want to make sure you understand what I wrote isn't indicative of what you've called me out on.

    Good, targeted, relevant and, yes, requested, email marketing is going to show high returns and measurably better success than a blog or social network application, for instance. All email marketing is not bad. The point I hoped to get across is that the BCC field, used to blast emails to lists of consumers who have not asked to be contacted by a specific brand or company, is a prerequisite to being a spammer. Still, many marketers think the email blast to lists of people, regardless of how they were acquired, is a good idea. Unless it's an opt-in list for that product or service, it's not.

    As always, though, thank you for keeping me honest.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog jasonbaer

    Always a pleasure. I'm glad we generally agree. You had me worried (either about you, or about me)!

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

    Always a pleasure. I'm glad we generally agree. You had me worried (either about you, or about me)!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Don't worry. I generally bring about concern in most people. Heh.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Don't worry. I generally bring about concern in most people. Heh.

  • mostew

    Jason (Falls),

    I need to agree with the other Jason here. Your clarification helps a little, but you are backing off the sentiment of your original post. Your original post is unclear on what practices you are berating.

    “And you email marketers out there are welcome to argue that most emails aren’t written well and you didn’t develop the strategy and your numbers are higher. I’ll just go ahead and call bullshit now. If you were so great, you wouldn’t be clamoring for approval on a B-Lister blog. Save it.

    Is it just me or does the math not seem worth it? Are marketers that stupid?”

    First, who are you talking about here? “Email marketers” or “Spammers”? In my experience, there is a considerable divide. Those in the email profession—who, like me, work on and design opt-in programs for a living—have complete distain for “Spammers”. Most of us strive to create programs that completely honor our customers—in fact, my company recently launched a new campaign (http://www.subscribersrule.com) urging marketers to adhere to three simple tenants:

    • Serve the individual
    • Honor their unique preferences with regard to communication channels, content & frequency
    • Deliver them timely, relevant content that improves their lives

    Yet, while we try to preach the relevance gospel, “Spammers” have made it uncomfortable to talk about our profession at cocktail parties. There is no way you could have more distain for these people than those of us who fight them every day. They are not email marketers, they are crooks.

    Second, Spammers would love a 3% click through rate. In fact, the math works at a fraction of that response rate for them… that is why Spam remains. If mail is sent through the methods you highlight, the incremental cost for a single email is nothing. Lease some equipment and blast away. Conversion rates at 1/1000 of a % still make them plenty of money… and those are the real numbers they are working from. They get a low % of their email delivered, almost no one responds, and yet they still keep the doors open? Why? Because they have ZERO operating costs! No morals and time is all they require. So… they may be crooks, but they ain’t stupid.

    Reputable senders don’t get to play by those rules. There are operating costs, but they are low enough that the math still works. There are reputable companies that are still sending bad email as a result. This is usually the result of neglect, justified for two reasons:

    1) Why change something with a positive ROI?
    2) Short-term-itis: Companies looking at next months profitability won’t change until they must. The need to change is occurring more and more frequently as companies start to see their lists shrink as a result of poor email practices, but still not soon enough in my mind.

    This mindset kills me… and the one that you may want to consider berating. (BTW… I do regularly: http://blog.exacttarget.com/blog/morgan-stewart…) However, you need to clarify a bit more on who and what exactly you are talking about here.

    Morgan Stewart
    ExactTarget
    http://www.exacttarget.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Morgan – Thanks for the response. I don't see the muddiness in my post and certainly don't think my response to Jason backs off anything. Of course, I wrote it, so I could be confused with what I wrote and what I was trying to say. My apologies.

      While those who conduct what you might consider an above board email marketing campaign, in my opinion if you send mass emails to people who have not opted in to receive emails from you or your brand/client/etc., then you are spamming them. Perhaps spam is in the eye of the beholder, but any direct solicitation that is sent without the receiver having opted in to the email list, in my mind, is spam.

      The only exception to that rule really is no exception at all. If you, as a marketer, reach out to me personally (not as a member of a list) and ask my permission to be on your list, I would probably consider that a courtesy. (I would likely decline, but appreciate the ask.) The difference is that you're not trying to sell me anything, just asking my permission to sell me something. This would be much like a public relations professional reaching out to a media member to simply introduce themselves, tell what use they might be and ask how the media member would like to be contacted in the future, but not pitching them a story.

      All of this doesn't mean that all spammers are evil or bad people or that the unsolicited email may not prove useful to the recipient if they take the time to read it, etc. But the simple definition, to me (and which is certainly up for debate, I'm sure) is that unsolicited solicitations are spam.

      So, and forgive me, but I don't see where I wasn't clear on this, anyone who sends email blasts to lists of people (which is, by definition, impersonal) who have not asked for the outreach is the behavior I'm calling into question.

      I'm sure there are email marketers out there who violate my definition and can make valid arguments as to why they aren't spamming people. But I opt in to about six different company's email marketing pieces. Outside of those six, I mark as spam, request to be taken off the list and tuck away in the back of my mind as a company I don't want to do business with. And it doesn't matter if the outreach is targeted, relevant and feaux personal.

  • mostew

    Jason (Falls),

    I need to agree with the other Jason here. Your clarification helps a little, but you are backing off the sentiment of your original post. Your original post is unclear on what practices you are berating.

    “And you email marketers out there are welcome to argue that most emails aren’t written well and you didn’t develop the strategy and your numbers are higher. I’ll just go ahead and call bullshit now. If you were so great, you wouldn’t be clamoring for approval on a B-Lister blog. Save it.

    Is it just me or does the math not seem worth it? Are marketers that stupid?”

    First, who are you talking about here? “Email marketers” or “Spammers”? In my experience, there is a considerable divide. Those in the email profession—who, like me, work on and design opt-in programs for a living—have complete distain for “Spammers”. Most of us strive to create programs that completely honor our customers—in fact, my company recently launched a new campaign (http://www.subscribersrule.com) urging marketers to adhere to three simple tenants:

    • Serve the individual
    • Honor their unique preferences with regard to communication channels, content & frequency
    • Deliver them timely, relevant content that improves their lives

    Yet, while we try to preach the relevance gospel, “Spammers” have made it uncomfortable to talk about our profession at cocktail parties. There is no way you could have more distain for these people than those of us who fight them every day. They are not email marketers, they are crooks.

    Second, Spammers would love a 3% click through rate. In fact, the math works at a fraction of that response rate for them… that is why Spam remains. If mail is sent through the methods you highlight, the incremental cost for a single email is nothing. Lease some equipment and blast away. Conversion rates at 1/1000 of a % still make them plenty of money… and those are the real numbers they are working from. They get a low % of their email delivered, almost no one responds, and yet they still keep the doors open? Why? Because they have ZERO operating costs! No morals and time is all they require. So… they may be crooks, but they ain’t stupid.

    Reputable senders don’t get to play by those rules. There are operating costs, but they are low enough that the math still works. There are reputable companies that are still sending bad email as a result. This is usually the result of neglect, justified for two reasons:

    1) Why change something with a positive ROI?
    2) Short-term-itis: Companies looking at next months profitability won’t change until they must. The need to change is occurring more and more frequently as companies start to see their lists shrink as a result of poor email practices, but still not soon enough in my mind.

    This mindset kills me… and the one that you may want to consider berating. (BTW… I do regularly: http://blog.exacttarget.com/blog/morgan-stewart…) However, you need to clarify a bit more on who and what exactly you are talking about here.

    Morgan Stewart
    ExactTarget
    http://www.exacttarget.com

  • mostew

    Jason (Falls),

    I need to agree with the other Jason here. Your clarification helps a little, but you are backing off the sentiment of your original post. Your original post is unclear on what practices you are berating.

    “And you email marketers out there are welcome to argue that most emails aren’t written well and you didn’t develop the strategy and your numbers are higher. I’ll just go ahead and call bullshit now. If you were so great, you wouldn’t be clamoring for approval on a B-Lister blog. Save it.

    Is it just me or does the math not seem worth it? Are marketers that stupid?”

    First, who are you talking about here? “Email marketers” or “Spammers”? In my experience, there is a considerable divide. Those in the email profession—who, like me, work on and design opt-in programs for a living—have complete distain for “Spammers”. Most of us strive to create programs that completely honor our customers—in fact, my company recently launched a new campaign (http://www.subscribersrule.com) urging marketers to adhere to three simple tenants:

    • Serve the individual
    • Honor their unique preferences with regard to communication channels, content & frequency
    • Deliver them timely, relevant content that improves their lives

    Yet, while we try to preach the relevance gospel, “Spammers” have made it uncomfortable to talk about our profession at cocktail parties. There is no way you could have more distain for these people than those of us who fight them every day. They are not email marketers, they are crooks.

    Second, Spammers would love a 3% click through rate. In fact, the math works at a fraction of that response rate for them… that is why Spam remains. If mail is sent through the methods you highlight, the incremental cost for a single email is nothing. Lease some equipment and blast away. Conversion rates at 1/1000 of a % still make them plenty of money… and those are the real numbers they are working from. They get a low % of their email delivered, almost no one responds, and yet they still keep the doors open? Why? Because they have ZERO operating costs! No morals and time is all they require. So… they may be crooks, but they ain’t stupid.

    Reputable senders don’t get to play by those rules. There are operating costs, but they are low enough that the math still works. There are reputable companies that are still sending bad email as a result. This is usually the result of neglect, justified for two reasons:

    1) Why change something with a positive ROI?
    2) Short-term-itis: Companies looking at next months profitability won’t change until they must. The need to change is occurring more and more frequently as companies start to see their lists shrink as a result of poor email practices, but still not soon enough in my mind.

    This mindset kills me… and the one that you may want to consider berating. (BTW… I do regularly: http://blog.exacttarget.com/blog/morgan-stewart…) However, you need to clarify a bit more on who and what exactly you are talking about here.

    Morgan Stewart
    ExactTarget
    http://www.exacttarget.com

  • http://sanforddickert.com Sanford Dickert

    Nice article here. Very good insights.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://sanforddickert.com Sanford Dickert

    Nice article here. Very good insights.

  • http://sanforddickert.com Sanford Dickert

    Nice article here. Very good insights.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Morgan – Thanks for the response. I don't see the muddiness in my post and certainly don't think my response to Jason backs off anything. Of course, I wrote it, so I could be confused with what I wrote and what I was trying to say. My apologies.

    While those who conduct what you might consider an above board email marketing campaign, in my opinion if you send mass emails to people who have not opted in to receive emails from you or your brand/client/etc., then you are spamming them. Perhaps spam is in the eye of the beholder, but any direct solicitation that is sent without the receiver having opted in to the email list, in my mind, is spam.

    The only exception to that rule really is no exception at all. If you, as a marketer, reach out to me personally (not as a member of a list) and ask my permission to be on your list, I would probably consider that a courtesy. (I would likely decline, but appreciate the ask.) The difference is that you're not trying to sell me anything, just asking my permission to sell me something. This would be much like a public relations professional reaching out to a media member to simply introduce themselves, tell what use they might be and ask how the media member would like to be contacted in the future, but not pitching them a story.

    All of this doesn't mean that all spammers are evil or bad people or that the unsolicited email may not prove useful to the recipient if they take the time to read it, etc. But the simple definition, to me (and which is certainly up for debate, I'm sure) is that unsolicited solicitations are spam.

    So, and forgive me, but I don't see where I wasn't clear on this, anyone who sends email blasts to lists of people (which is, by definition, impersonal) who have not asked for the outreach is the behavior I'm calling into question.

    I'm sure there are email marketers out there who violate my definition and can make valid arguments as to why they aren't spamming people. But I opt in to about six different company's email marketing pieces. Outside of those six, I mark as spam, request to be taken off the list and tuck away in the back of my mind as a company I don't want to do business with. And it doesn't matter if the outreach is targeted, relevant and feaux personal.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Morgan – Thanks for the response. I don't see the muddiness in my post and certainly don't think my response to Jason backs off anything. Of course, I wrote it, so I could be confused with what I wrote and what I was trying to say. My apologies.

    While those who conduct what you might consider an above board email marketing campaign, in my opinion if you send mass emails to people who have not opted in to receive emails from you or your brand/client/etc., then you are spamming them. Perhaps spam is in the eye of the beholder, but any direct solicitation that is sent without the receiver having opted in to the email list, in my mind, is spam.

    The only exception to that rule really is no exception at all. If you, as a marketer, reach out to me personally (not as a member of a list) and ask my permission to be on your list, I would probably consider that a courtesy. (I would likely decline, but appreciate the ask.) The difference is that you're not trying to sell me anything, just asking my permission to sell me something. This would be much like a public relations professional reaching out to a media member to simply introduce themselves, tell what use they might be and ask how the media member would like to be contacted in the future, but not pitching them a story.

    All of this doesn't mean that all spammers are evil or bad people or that the unsolicited email may not prove useful to the recipient if they take the time to read it, etc. But the simple definition, to me (and which is certainly up for debate, I'm sure) is that unsolicited solicitations are spam.

    So, and forgive me, but I don't see where I wasn't clear on this, anyone who sends email blasts to lists of people (which is, by definition, impersonal) who have not asked for the outreach is the behavior I'm calling into question.

    I'm sure there are email marketers out there who violate my definition and can make valid arguments as to why they aren't spamming people. But I opt in to about six different company's email marketing pieces. Outside of those six, I mark as spam, request to be taken off the list and tuck away in the back of my mind as a company I don't want to do business with. And it doesn't matter if the outreach is targeted, relevant and feaux personal.

  • Erin McMahon

    Jason Falls, I concur with you. I fight email battles regularly, lose and have seen decreasing metrics as a result.

    The online climate has changed. (Anyone heard of iPriority? Check out this Yankelovich Monitor Minute: http://www.yankelovich.com/products/sample_minu… for a tip-of-the-iceberg definition.) Social media gives someone so much more of it whereas email gives a lot less.

    While, yes, a really talented email marketer can 'personalize' the communication to offer a feeling of customization and “about me”-ness, there will always be that 'third dimension' missing.

    My 2cents. Email won't ever die as a medium, but it will have to go through some changes or wait for social media to plateau.

    Conversing two-ways is so much more fun than being talked at. ;)

    - Erin McMahon

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen, Erin. Excellent perspectives and thanks for the Yankelovich link!

  • Erin McMahon

    Jason Falls, I concur with you. I fight email battles regularly, lose and have seen decreasing metrics as a result.

    The online climate has changed. (Anyone heard of iPriority? Check out this Yankelovich Monitor Minute: http://www.yankelovich.com/products/sample_minu… for a tip-of-the-iceberg definition.) Social media gives someone so much more of it whereas email gives a lot less.

    While, yes, a really talented email marketer can 'personalize' the communication to offer a feeling of customization and “about me”-ness, there will always be that 'third dimension' missing.

    My 2cents. Email won't ever die as a medium, but it will have to go through some changes or wait for social media to plateau.

    Conversing two-ways is so much more fun than being talked at. ;)

    - Erin McMahon

  • Erin McMahon

    Jason Falls, I concur with you. I fight email battles regularly, lose and have seen decreasing metrics as a result.

    The online climate has changed. (Anyone heard of iPriority? Check out this Yankelovich Monitor Minute: http://www.yankelovich.com/products/sample_minu… for a tip-of-the-iceberg definition.) Social media gives someone so much more of it whereas email gives a lot less.

    While, yes, a really talented email marketer can 'personalize' the communication to offer a feeling of customization and “about me”-ness, there will always be that 'third dimension' missing.

    My 2cents. Email won't ever die as a medium, but it will have to go through some changes or wait for social media to plateau.

    Conversing two-ways is so much more fun than being talked at. ;)

    - Erin McMahon

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  • http://www.theharteofmarketing.com Beth Harte

    Jason,

    As a marketer, I agree with you. E-mail marketing is flawed and it’s the lazy marketers and those that fall into the “anyone can be a marketer category” that make it spam.

    There are several issues that make me hop up on my soapbox that you didn’t touch on. So I’ll add to your argument. You are a spammer if you do any of the following:

    1. Add someone to the e-mail list just because they download something from your website
    2. Add someone to the e-mail list because sales (or anyone else) tells you to
    3. Add someone to the e-mail list just because they “friend” you on a social network
    4. You keep e-mailing someone even when they ask to be removed from your e-mail list
    5. You don’t use a professional e-mail marketing application, tool, or program. (i.e. you sent bulk e-mails from your desktop)
    6. You regurgitate copy from your collateral, website or white papers for your e-mails
    7. You don’t know the CAN-SPAM Act inside and out

    I get over 40-50 industry promotional e-mails a day. I’d say 20 of them I have signed up for and the rest are spam. Regardless, for the most part they all end up in the trash (un-opened). I don’t have the time to read them all, most are irrelevant, and I haven’t had the time or patience to unsubscribe.

    I disagree that “Email is by far the most ubiquitous tactic, because it works.” That’s not why. It’s the most ubiquitous tactic because for most companies it’s the easiest tactic to employee. Put together a list, draft up some copy and voila!

    Amazon.com is a great example of e-mail marketing that works. They send e-mails based on your wish lists, your likes, etc. (i.e. personalized, one-to-one marketing). And they are informative, short, and provide a links to the items that I might want to purchase.

    Grant it, there are some great e-mail marketers out there that clean-up their databases, have automated opt-in/opt out, analyze data (CTR, etc.), create great content, listen to feedback from their customers, etc. But the fact that CTRs have been 1-2% for the past 5-8 years speaks volumes. When is that going to change?! Not until marketers stop mass e-mailing.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      This is why we love you commenting at SME. Great additions to the conversation. Thanks, B!

  • http://www.theharteofmarketing.com Beth Harte

    Jason,

    As a marketer, I agree with you. E-mail marketing is flawed and it’s the lazy marketers and those that fall into the “anyone can be a marketer category” that make it spam.

    There are several issues that make me hop up on my soapbox that you didn’t touch on. So I’ll add to your argument. You are a spammer if you do any of the following:

    1. Add someone to the e-mail list just because they download something from your website
    2. Add someone to the e-mail list because sales (or anyone else) tells you to
    3. Add someone to the e-mail list just because they “friend” you on a social network
    4. You keep e-mailing someone even when they ask to be removed from your e-mail list
    5. You don’t use a professional e-mail marketing application, tool, or program. (i.e. you sent bulk e-mails from your desktop)
    6. You regurgitate copy from your collateral, website or white papers for your e-mails
    7. You don’t know the CAN-SPAM Act inside and out

    I get over 40-50 industry promotional e-mails a day. I’d say 20 of them I have signed up for and the rest are spam. Regardless, for the most part they all end up in the trash (un-opened). I don’t have the time to read them all, most are irrelevant, and I haven’t had the time or patience to unsubscribe.

    I disagree that “Email is by far the most ubiquitous tactic, because it works.” That’s not why. It’s the most ubiquitous tactic because for most companies it’s the easiest tactic to employee. Put together a list, draft up some copy and voila!

    Amazon.com is a great example of e-mail marketing that works. They send e-mails based on your wish lists, your likes, etc. (i.e. personalized, one-to-one marketing). And they are informative, short, and provide a links to the items that I might want to purchase.

    Grant it, there are some great e-mail marketers out there that clean-up their databases, have automated opt-in/opt out, analyze data (CTR, etc.), create great content, listen to feedback from their customers, etc. But the fact that CTRs have been 1-2% for the past 5-8 years speaks volumes. When is that going to change?! Not until marketers stop mass e-mailing.

  • http://www.theharteofmarketing.com Beth Harte

    Jason,

    As a marketer, I agree with you. E-mail marketing is flawed and it’s the lazy marketers and those that fall into the “anyone can be a marketer category” that make it spam.

    There are several issues that make me hop up on my soapbox that you didn’t touch on. So I’ll add to your argument. You are a spammer if you do any of the following:

    1. Add someone to the e-mail list just because they download something from your website
    2. Add someone to the e-mail list because sales (or anyone else) tells you to
    3. Add someone to the e-mail list just because they “friend” you on a social network
    4. You keep e-mailing someone even when they ask to be removed from your e-mail list
    5. You don’t use a professional e-mail marketing application, tool, or program. (i.e. you sent bulk e-mails from your desktop)
    6. You regurgitate copy from your collateral, website or white papers for your e-mails
    7. You don’t know the CAN-SPAM Act inside and out

    I get over 40-50 industry promotional e-mails a day. I’d say 20 of them I have signed up for and the rest are spam. Regardless, for the most part they all end up in the trash (un-opened). I don’t have the time to read them all, most are irrelevant, and I haven’t had the time or patience to unsubscribe.

    I disagree that “Email is by far the most ubiquitous tactic, because it works.” That’s not why. It’s the most ubiquitous tactic because for most companies it’s the easiest tactic to employee. Put together a list, draft up some copy and voila!

    Amazon.com is a great example of e-mail marketing that works. They send e-mails based on your wish lists, your likes, etc. (i.e. personalized, one-to-one marketing). And they are informative, short, and provide a links to the items that I might want to purchase.

    Grant it, there are some great e-mail marketers out there that clean-up their databases, have automated opt-in/opt out, analyze data (CTR, etc.), create great content, listen to feedback from their customers, etc. But the fact that CTRs have been 1-2% for the past 5-8 years speaks volumes. When is that going to change?! Not until marketers stop mass e-mailing.

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  • http://www.mahindrauniverse.com Priyanka

    Hi Jason,

    Marketing email would cause spam only if unwanted so this can be avoided by those links which many websites have, where on registration they ask you whether we are subscribing to newsletters/updates whatever, so people can easily just uncheck that if not interested.

    ~Priyanka
    http://www.mahindrauniverse.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Priyanka. You're right, that is one way companies can avoid being spammers. Unfortunately, there are also companies who take great liberties with their email lists and don't abide by the opt-in principles. But we have these discussions to illustrate that to them. Thanks for the thoughts!

  • http://www.mahindrauniverse.com Priyanka

    Hi Jason,

    Marketing email would cause spam only if unwanted so this can be avoided by those links which many websites have, where on registration they ask you whether we are subscribing to newsletters/updates whatever, so people can easily just uncheck that if not interested.

    ~Priyanka
    http://www.mahindrauniverse.com

  • http://www.mahindrauniverse.com Priyanka

    Hi Jason,

    Marketing email would cause spam only if unwanted so this can be avoided by those links which many websites have, where on registration they ask you whether we are subscribing to newsletters/updates whatever, so people can easily just uncheck that if not interested.

    ~Priyanka
    http://www.mahindrauniverse.com

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Amen, Erin. Excellent perspectives and thanks for the Yankelovich link!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Amen, Erin. Excellent perspectives and thanks for the Yankelovich link!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    This is why we love you commenting at SME. Great additions to the conversation. Thanks, B!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    This is why we love you commenting at SME. Great additions to the conversation. Thanks, B!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, Priyanka. You're right, that is one way companies can avoid being spammers. Unfortunately, there are also companies who take great liberties with their email lists and don't abide by the opt-in principles. But we have these discussions to illustrate that to them. Thanks for the thoughts!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, Priyanka. You're right, that is one way companies can avoid being spammers. Unfortunately, there are also companies who take great liberties with their email lists and don't abide by the opt-in principles. But we have these discussions to illustrate that to them. Thanks for the thoughts!

  • http://www.pauldervan.com paul

    hi Jason, i see you feel strongly on this one. I like Amazon's emails. I get them regularly but happy as stuff is relevant. I wrote a post a while ago about whether big companies would use RSS marketing instead of email marketing, with the main advantage is that subscribers are in charge, not the person sending out the emails…http://www.pauldervan.com/2008/04/rss-marketing.html

  • http://www.pauldervan.com paul

    hi Jason, i see you feel strongly on this one. I like Amazon's emails. I get them regularly but happy as stuff is relevant. I wrote a post a while ago about whether big companies would use RSS marketing instead of email marketing, with the main advantage is that subscribers are in charge, not the person sending out the emails…http://www.pauldervan.com/2008/04/rss-marketing.html

  • http://www.pauldervan.com paul

    hi Jason, i see you feel strongly on this one. I like Amazon's emails. I get them regularly but happy as stuff is relevant. I wrote a post a while ago about whether big companies would use RSS marketing instead of email marketing, with the main advantage is that subscribers are in charge, not the person sending out the emails…http://www.pauldervan.com/2008/04/rss-marketing.html

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  • http://www.pacebutler.com/ used cell phones

    I am a web marketer. And I am full agree with you for points about E-mail marketing you discussed. But there should be some major issues for us, if we accomplish or add someone to the e-mail list just because they download something from your website

  • http://www.brisbanehousepainter.net/ brisbane house painters

    Spam volumes are growing faster than expected due to the success of image-based spam in bypassing antispam filters and of email sender identity spoofing in getting higher response rates.

  • http://www.brisbanehousepainter.net/ brisbane house painters

    Spam volumes are growing faster than expected due to the success of image-based spam in bypassing antispam filters and of email sender identity spoofing in getting higher response rates.