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Email marketing - ethics and business practices

We've been hitting some stumbling blocks

3:38 am on Oct 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Email marketing can be a very effective promotional tool, dare I say "relationship" building tool. Not yet:)

We use brokers for lists, to get "opt-in" lists. Some companies guarantee a certain percentage of click throughs and we've found that some companies will achieve that click through rate by increasing the size of the mailing. For example a list of 100,000 is purchased and the company guaantees a 3% click through (open) rate. The list doesn't perform as expected so the company we deal with may send the message to another 50k people to "achieve" the promised 3% click through without our knowledge. (Makes ya wonder just how many people are getting the message and where the addresses came from)

It also seems that there may be quite a few instances of companies going belly up and selling lists as a last ditch effort to raise some cash so we never really know the quality of a list or it's origins or just how truely "opt-in" it is.

Often a test list will be purchased, say 5k names. It gets a killer response so a larger mailing is done which tanks. The broker has obviously loaded all the best addresses in the test and provided who knows what for the actual mailing.

Sometimes clients hav their own inhouse lists. There are times when it may be desirable to compare this list with that of a broker so that duplicte addresses are not purchased. In light of the above examples, it becomes very difficult to trust that a broker will not take a highly targeted list for widget buyers and go sell it to someone else.

It's disturbing from a business and ethical point of view. Email has the potential to be a tremendous marketing vehicle but practices like this will kill it.

Sooooooooo........ does anyone have suggestions for reputable Email brokers?

Anybody else doing much in the way of Email marketing? How successful is it?

Thoughts on the future of Email marketing? Is the only way for it to be really effective to collect addresses on the company site, build and manage it in-house?

9:24 pm on Oct 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

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IMHO all e-mail marketing will get you is 97% pissed off e-mail recipients and a lot of bad publicity. If you ar rely unlucky it might get you banned form some servers and networks. I would NEVER use it, But that just my oppinion
2:32 am on Oct 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Most Email marketing is seen as Spam and nothing more. I especially hate those who send full web pages. As for trusting the mailing list as to whether or not it is truly opt-in, you may want to check a site like www.fasti.net. They pay up to $1.50 per Email address without asking where it came from then resell them. I know because I got a Spam from them and at the bottom it said "You are receiving this because you asked for it."
2:37 am on Oct 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

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I know this is a double edged sword, and I think this is going to be a longer post.

For one thing, mail order (which is comparable to 'bulk emailing') has been around for quite some time, and still has not died.

When it comes to email marketing, I think quite a lot depends on two factors:

a) the quality of the adresses
b) the quality of the content

To understand better, look at it form a marketing perspective: its easier to sell your product to someone who's interested, than to someone who is not. Also, if oyu 'bundle' the product with other services, and you make the sale of the product look like it isn't the main thing, you'll gain, at least in the long run.

I'll give an example. I am subscribed to a mailing list about photography. This maliing list, which has about 2-3k subscribers is focused on equipment form one brand only, and besides equipment reviews (what equipment for that situation), there's some talk about techniques (how do I do this and this, is this flim more adapted than that one). 'load' of the list is about 20-30 messages a day.

One of the subscribers of this list is also part of a large mail order company (spercialised among other things in photography). Often he gives advice regarding certain photographic items. He does not 'sell' anything, but with this advice he builds trust. People know: when I buy it there it is him who'll handle it, him i can contact if anything goes wrong.

If he weren't on the list he'd sell less.

The message is: think about the messages you send, I rutinely delete messages from unknown senders, with an uninteresting subject.

Well, I am ranting, I think.


2:43 am on Oct 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

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<all e-mail marketing will get you is 97% pissed off e-mail recipients and a lot of bad publicity>

It depends on how its being done. a big part of my marketing plan is e-mailing past cutomers of upcoming promotions and such. I don't think this type of marketing pisses people off, because they have shown an interest in the product at one time or another.

3:28 am on Oct 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

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My GF once checked the wrong case once doing just a change of adress. She agreed to recieve more info about wireless communication devices. She now gets about 50 SPAM a week about Herbal viagra and how to become a millionaire in a just week with 25$. It was from Bell Canada site ( the telephone monopoly in Canada ) she never believed this could happend from such a "reputable" company.

Lists from "reputable sources" can fall into the wrong hands. The traffic from SE is looking for the stuff your site is about. I still wonder why some people are waisting time and money with banners and SPAM.

IMHO E-mail marketing is not ethical from purchased lists. SPAMMERS are killing e-mail marketing.

4:32 am on Oct 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

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MacGuru said

"...SPAMMERS are killing e-mail marketing..."

Absolutely agreed. Email marketing is very easy to do badly for people who have very little experience on the Web. I get 90% SPAM every morning, most outright lies saying I asked for it. BAscially the lies make me sick. Perhaps 2% of that is targeted. How much inetrest do I have in enlarging my breasts AND enlarging my thingo? Whey would i want to buy a satellite dish that works only in the USA when i'm in Thailand/Malaysia?

Spam email reduces the value or weel targeted email. Many times i mistakenly delete email list mails that I asked for in deleting the 90% of spam, and lose 20 minutes a day from the exercise.

The problem is that it is too easy to send untargeted crap email. It is not only killing email marketing.. it is killing email itself.

2:42 pm on Oct 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Alot of SPAM that we get here at the office is related to having a "techsupport@" email address on the front of pages we design (small and towards the bottom of the page) for any technical problems. Programs pull off the email addresses via a search on a search engine (so we will get products trying to sell us product distributorships for similiar products to our clients).

We also do email marketing off of lists that we purchase from brokers that are opt-in. We have developed relationships with our brokers so a level of trust has been built up. One of the ways I do this is by signing up on their list and also lists from their sources. This allows me to see what type of messages they send out. Quality lists will get you more mainstream advertisers (as opposed to the herbal viagra crowd) and you will not get flooded from those lists.

One broker will allow me to see which sites supplied which lists. This way I can view the site (and it's privacy policy) and see if a subscriber would be interested in my offering (if I see a bunch of banners for your proverbial "herbal viagra" I know not to waste time).

While these lists cost more (they don't fall into the 9 million names on a cd for $9.95 category) they are more effective and won't tarnish the name brand you are trying to build.

My $.02

2:17 pm on Oct 8, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Excellent advice, dwedeking. I agree, find out what you are getting - ask for the source of the addresses. If they can't/don't want to tell you, it's probably not a reliable list. Signup at the source, and see what you get. (Use a disposable address.) Hadn't thought about checking the ads running on the source sites - very sound thinking. Another thing I think is valuable - look for double opt-in lists, where you opt-in with your address, then *must* reply to the first email to be added. These subs actually read their first email and responded to it - much better quality subs.

I have seen some pretty stellar offers from individual webmasters as well, for simple top/middle/bottom ads. They often guarantee clickthroughs, and some have a decent/large subscriber base. Finding niche topics can be difficult, however.


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