Who among us email marketers has ever heard himself or herself labeled as a spammer? Really, in our industry, who hasn’t? But is that really all marketing and promotion is? Unwanted, irrelevant, clutter-some content for the sake of inbox (or junk box) presence?
Of course not.
To be fair, irrelevance alone doesn’t make you spam. Valid marketers are accidentally irrelevant all the time. Spam is more often defined as email marketing without permission —though a staple of the world’s Spam content has been that it is also irrelevant. So if you’re sending email without value or relevance, you’re acting like a spammer, with one key difference: the recipients on your list know who you are and can complain very publicly about your cluttering content.
And this isn’t the first time people have questioned the value of inbound messages: marketing and advertising have been doubted by an entire generation of consumers, seen as mind control’s subtler brethren. That somehow, merely by repeating a message, a marketer can make you buy something you don’t need or want. And so their next of kin email, social media and online promotion, are similarly guilty until proven worthy.
But email marketing, online contesting and viral promotions aren’t all junk or spam. Just like all advertising isn’t one-directional propaganda. Good marketing offers information about a company/product, so when Joe customer needs something, he’s got options. We don’t just push product. I don’t sell ice to Eskimos (those who don’t need it) or ice cream to diabetics (those who shouldn’t have it). I offer information to potential consumers about my product. If it’s something you want/need, you’ll come to me to buy it – or go to the grocery store, ticket booth, etc.
I believe in the power of fun contests to draw in users to learn more about your brand. I understand wanting to have your name out there – sponsorships, branding – for top of mind awareness. But like the guy in legal says: without the intent to harm. Overloading inboxes with pharmaceutical promotions in Russian and contributing to the ever-increasing mass of my inbound flow with bunk messages is cumbersome and just plain annoying. It dilutes the nature of email, which is for me (the user) to delve into the things most interesting to me by opting in. That’s what I call spam: content without relevance.
The tough part is, when valid email marketers are successful, spammers are quick to mimic the trend to take advantage of what’s “hot” in the market place. Tactics fizzle in effectiveness as consumers become immune, and anti-ad-ers will point and lump these guys in with the rest of “us marketers.” And it’s too bad. Because marketing and advertising are a valuable part of the communication food chain. I’m happy as a clam to get my email club “exclusive offers” from Minsky’s – my favorite local pizza joint – every month. It’s valuable and relevant to me, so keep ‘em comin’. The mission, then, is to avoid that accidental irrelevance and one-directional propaganda.
Because we are permission marketers. Our job isn’t to “spam”. If we thought it was, we wouldn’t do it. Am I right?
Takeaway: The inherent benefit of being a permission marketer is that we have had people opt-in for our content because it was relevant to them. So beware of being accidentally irrelevant or becoming one-directional marketers. Give our subscribers what they opted-in for: value.