“Oh you’re the people who send me spam . . .” by Jessica Best @bestofjess

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.

Meet the author:

emfluence

emfluence

We’ve focused the emfluence Marketing Platform’s features around what’s really important: helping digital marketers like you accomplish your goals every day. Whether you're B2B, B2C, Agency, or a CRM Shop, our marketing automation platform makes building complex, one-to-one digital campaigns easy so you can concentrate on strategy, not technology.

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  • Jim Ducharme
    February 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Great first post Jessica! I agree because I don’t do what I don’t feel good about doing. It’s core to me and I believe every true professional marketer on the planet.

    Looking forward to many more great posts! Thanks for being a part of the best eMail marketing community on the web!

    Regards,
    jim

  • Jim Ducharme
    February 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Great first post Jessica! I agree because I don’t do what I don’t feel good about doing. It’s core to me and I believe every true professional marketer on the planet.

    Looking forward to many more great posts! Thanks for being a part of the best eMail marketing community on the web!

    Regards,
    jim

  • Clint
    February 18, 2010 at 11:02 am

    A great read; insightful for a consumer like me.

    My trouble has always been email marketers who fail to strike a balance. The Nelson Atkins museum sends me an email perhaps twice a month… when I get that email, I read the whole thing.
    Ore importantly, I don’t \think\ of it as spam, (to your point). Brick-and-mortars like Barnes and Noble and Walgreens send me an email *every day* and I delete them as soon as they arrive. The only reason I haven’t opted out is either I haven’t thought of it, or I occasionally find the offer useful… it’s as if their email makes me remember a book I was wanting to find… again, to your point.

    The trouble is, they annoy me… and doesn’t that damage the brand? Is it possible to strike a balance of value to business, value to consumer and frequency? What’s the magic number?

    Like I said, great post and introduction to this site. Keep ’em comin’! 🙂

    – Clint Hall

  • Clint
    February 18, 2010 at 11:02 am

    A great read; insightful for a consumer like me.

    My trouble has always been email marketers who fail to strike a balance. The Nelson Atkins museum sends me an email perhaps twice a month… when I get that email, I read the whole thing.
    Ore importantly, I don’t \think\ of it as spam, (to your point). Brick-and-mortars like Barnes and Noble and Walgreens send me an email *every day* and I delete them as soon as they arrive. The only reason I haven’t opted out is either I haven’t thought of it, or I occasionally find the offer useful… it’s as if their email makes me remember a book I was wanting to find… again, to your point.

    The trouble is, they annoy me… and doesn’t that damage the brand? Is it possible to strike a balance of value to business, value to consumer and frequency? What’s the magic number?

    Like I said, great post and introduction to this site. Keep ’em comin’! 🙂

    – Clint Hall

  • Jessica Best
    February 18, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Thanks, Jim! I’m looking forward to it.

    I think the good thing about the world “going social” is a sort of call for authenticity and value in all marketing. We email marketers — the good ones — are on board!

  • Jessica Best
    February 18, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Thanks, Jim! I’m looking forward to it.

    I think the good thing about the world “going social” is a sort of call for authenticity and value in all marketing. We email marketers — the good ones — are on board!

  • Jim Ducharme
    February 18, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Hi Clint,

    I’ve always believed that an email (in a campaign sense) is the invitation to start a conversation and not the time to sell something to anyone. Good relationships based on trust and sincerity lead to good sales.

    I suspect (and I’m speculating) that many companies who push out the digital equivelent of junk mail, don’t have a person who is a) savvy about web social and b) a person behind the message who owns the interactions they generate.

    I passionately believe that there must be a voice/face behind that brand and message who is a real person people can interact with.

    Regards,
    jim

  • Jim Ducharme
    February 18, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Hi Clint,

    I’ve always believed that an email (in a campaign sense) is the invitation to start a conversation and not the time to sell something to anyone. Good relationships based on trust and sincerity lead to good sales.

    I suspect (and I’m speculating) that many companies who push out the digital equivelent of junk mail, don’t have a person who is a) savvy about web social and b) a person behind the message who owns the interactions they generate.

    I passionately believe that there must be a voice/face behind that brand and message who is a real person people can interact with.

    Regards,
    jim

  • Merritt Engel
    February 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Jessica, this is a great post. I’ll never forget being at a family dinner once and hearing the words … “you’re not affiliated with the spamming DMA, are you?” Suffice it to say, the dinner suddenly included a serious educational component. Like your Minsky’s example, I think some people fail to consider how they would feel with no marketing and no offers. I’m thrilled to live in an era when blast and pray is nearly obsolete and genuine conversations can (and do) happen.

  • Merritt Engel
    February 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Jessica, this is a great post. I’ll never forget being at a family dinner once and hearing the words … “you’re not affiliated with the spamming DMA, are you?” Suffice it to say, the dinner suddenly included a serious educational component. Like your Minsky’s example, I think some people fail to consider how they would feel with no marketing and no offers. I’m thrilled to live in an era when blast and pray is nearly obsolete and genuine conversations can (and do) happen.

  • Jim Ducharme
    February 18, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Well said Merritt and right here we have a good example of a quality conversation;). Thanks for contributing!

    Regards,
    jim

  • Jim Ducharme
    February 18, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Well said Merritt and right here we have a good example of a quality conversation;). Thanks for contributing!

    Regards,
    jim

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