You send emails every day. You send an email to a friend or colleague, and it goes through. Occasionally you check the spam folder to see if anything important was missed. Usually it wasn’t. Spam filters have gotten pretty good in that way. But, in this case, the spam filter is on your side. As marketers, even legitimate ones, this is not the case. Many people do not realize the real impact of spam filtering on legit marketing campaigns. Here are just a few things that happen:
Email has fallen into a “more the merrier” routine. The variable cost of adding individuals to lists is nearly zero, so the party grows. If they don’t want to get the email, they’ll opt-out, right. No problem. But there is. Technically, for something like email, a negative action like this impacts the validity of the sender which has a negative impact on future deliverability of campaigns. ISPs maintain “white lists”, much like the permanent record your teachers always threatened you with, of email senders. It contains both a history and a rating. Unlike the fictitious permanent record, however, the Internet truly never forgets. Lower your rating and lower your deliverability, the rate at which you are allowed to send emails, and a few other important factors which catapult you into the downward spiral of being denied by the ISP.
If email blast lists were sorted by which prospects really should see the emails followed by who the marketers added just to get the numbers up then it wouldn’t be as much of a problem but, unfortunately, they are not. Who does and does not actually get to see the email is randomized by the ISP. Send too many emails? They cut you off. Send emails too fast? they cut you off. Have too many complaints? They cut you off. Where did they cut you off? Who got the email? Who did not? It’s not up to you, the worst case being everyone it was intended for were cut off. When it comes to a large ISP like yahoo or gmail, for instance, something like this can have quite an impact on the success of the campaign. This is especially true if timing is of the essence as in a holiday promotion or limited time/quantity campaign.
The interesting thing is that customers do actually reward marketers for quality but we, as humans, have an innate problem with processing small numbers and aggregating the total impact in our heads. It’s easy to do when we think about cost, like the variable costs of emails approaching zero, but when we think about a benefit of near zero doesn’t seem to be worth much. As we consider the low marginal cost of a single email we also consider a single opt-out or spam complaint very low impact but, like on the outbound side of the campaign, the variable cost of inbound feedback adds up such that the aggregate does, in fact, make a difference. This value of this is not in positive feedback as we would assume, but lack of negative feedback, which is also important and regularly overlooked. A targeted campaign can be just as successful in aggregate and more highly successful in percentages, cost [marginally] less, and result in future campaigns being more successful.
There are two extremes to marketing methodologies and the confusion between them is a symptom of not choosing a strategy that matches your organization and sticking with it. Some organizations have a high customer churn rate while others seek repeat customers and lifetime value. As such, observing one product successfully marketing one way may not work for you, even in the same industry, simply because your organization is not setup to support the style of marketing. Circuit City coming from a service model and trying to be Best Buy is a great example of the failure that can occur. This is the basis for behavior first marketing and customer relationship cultivation. It’s about knowing your products, how your customers use them, and how you can better provide value as they observe it.
Do this and they may reward you with a marginal non-negative impact… which is a good thing.