E-mail: Are you using or abusing it?

E-mail marketing
Are you an e-mail user or abuser?
Last week, I decided to do a little experiment. I started watching my inbox more closely. Actually, I should say I started watching my “spam” folder. It started when I opened my inbox first thing in the morning and noticed that messages were pouring in repeatedly from the same company.

I randomly picked three of the senders and tracked how often they contacted me. Keep in mind, these were e-mail lists I have never opted in to. So, right off the bat these marketers were contacting me blindly and hoping that I’d “bite at their bait.” Needless to say, they weren’t successful.

Too many too often.

The first company I watched, starting sending messages at 2:10am. Then, they sent a message every 25 – 40 minutes for the next two hours. After that, a few more arrived about an hour apart until 8:25am. For approximately six hours, I received messages asking me to sign up for their credit card and that was just on Monday. On Tuesday, they started up again. This time they started a little later, 3:25am. Again every 25 minutes another message came through until approximately 5:30am.

Remember, this was a credit card I never inquired or cared about. Every day that followed throughout the week, there were inevitably more messages from them. While they were fewer in number, they were still coming. Didn’t they get the idea that I wasn’t interested?

Basically the same scenario happened with the other 2 companies I targeted. One insisted my “candidacy had been approved” for their prestigious business directory. However, I never applied for their directory, never filled out a form, never asked to hear from them. Each day, they sent me 1/2 dozen messages between 4:30 and 11:00am. A few more would make their way into my spam folder throughout the day and the process repeated daily.

Messages Targeted to the Wrong Audience at the Wrong Time

Finally, the third company started out with a bang like the others. But get this, they sent me messages 1) about coffee (and I don’t drink coffee) and 2) they talked about “turning up the holiday cheer this holiday season.” Excuse me, but last I checked, the holidays were over or didn’t anyone tell them that?

Not included among the three companies I watched, were the ongoing messages about gym memberships, LASIK, Viagara, auto insurance, home warranties, electronic cigarettes, credit checks and an endless list of others. I’m sure, much to your chagrin, you’ve seen them in your inbox as well.

What’s the best practice for sending e-mail? During a recent Facebook event, branding specialist Annemarie Cross asked me a similar question. My reply was that it depends on not only who you’re e-mailing, but what you’re sending them.

I send out my marketing newsletter every quarter. That’s right – every quarter, not every week or even every month. I have discovered that these days everyone is feeling barraged with e-mails – even the ones they’ve asked for. Therefore, they’re not only more selective about which lists they opt in to, but just how often they receive messages. The guideline I use is to send messages when you have something of value to share – value being the keyword here.

You definitely don’t want to abuse e-mail like the culprits I outlined above. I mean really, is there any reason to send an e-mail out every 25 minutes to the same person – especially when they didn’t opt in? Even when they have opted in, you risk a high opt out rate when your messages show up ad nauseum.

There’s a delicate balance between using and abusing e-mail as a marketing tool. Don’t be like the marketers I highlighted above (i.e. sending not only unsolicited e-mails, but far too many of them). Instead, show integrity in your marketing. Provide your readers with information that’s beneficial to them. When you or your copywriter are writing your messages, include content that piques readers’ interest and makes them feel your message was worth receiving.

Not only will you build credibility, you’ll gain a reputation as an expert they admire and trust. And, they’ll continue to welcome your e-mail messages when they arrive in their inbox.