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“Once you’re in this family, there’s no gettin’ out” – The Tony Soprano Approach to Email Marketing

May 25, 2011

Keeping on top of unsubscribe requests and complaints is essential for successful email marketing. Obvious I know.

However, I spoke to a guy recently who proclaimed to be an experienced e-marketer. Despite this, on the subject of unsubscribes he dismissed the importance of monitoring responses for unsubscribes ‘informing’ me there is no point pandering to “idiots who have forgotten they subscribed in the first place”.

“Perhaps they have changed their mind?” I suggested.

“Most of them are clients of ours anyway. And besides, it is only one email a month. It’s quicker for them to just delete it” was his rather peculiar response.

At this point I’d like to make it clear that this man is not a client of Extravision (nor a colleague!), but a friend of a friend with whom I was enjoying a pint. He holds a marketing position with a reasonably large UK company and on first impression seems a sensible, intelligent professional. Until, that is, you stumble across the subject of email marketing. On this subject his hostility to people unsubscribing is palpable.

The crux of his argument seemed to be that anyone who had worked with his company should be happy to receive his email campaigns: “If they buy or have bought our products they should want to know about other products. They should also want to know about service updates, product developments, company news – it’s simple”.

This clearly isn’t true and as the strong European lager flowed, he became more and more reminiscent of Tony Soprano –“…there’s no gettin’ out”. Actually, he was probably more Anthony Jr.

I argued an alternative viewpoint attempting to convert him to a more honest approach to his life as an email marketer. I pointed out all the obvious reasons why we should always honour unsubscribes and respond to complaints (so obvious I won’t bother listing them) and tried to give him some examples where a client may not be keen to receive email communications. And although I suspect he is alone in his views, I thought I’d share my examples…. Just in case there are other Soprano–esque email marketers out there.

Example 1 – No emails please

In the event of my car being stolen, a company called Tracker will help the Police locate it. The service they provide is perfectly adequate (despite the occasional erroneous late night alert) but I don’t want them to send me a monthly update. I just want them to tell me if my car is compromised. I therefore unsubscribe from their e-newsletter but would continue to work with them assuming they respect my unsubscribe request. They have and I do.

Example 2 – No emails please

Occasionally I have purchased generic and rather impersonal gifts from Firebox.com – generally the gifts are thoughtless stocking fillers. It is my last resort when I have finally given up on Christmas shopping. Again, their products and service are fine. But I don’t want to be bombarded with weekly promotions informing me of a new colour of Slanket. Nor do I need pictures of a man-shaped knife holder or an amusingly shaped doorstop. These promotions do not interest me. I know where to find these products and being a lazy man, can pretty much guarantee I will be lacking inspiration again next Christmas and consequently will be placing another order. Whilst the relationship isn’t strong I am a reluctant yet loyal customer. I have no reason not to use them in the future, assuming they don’t bombard me with guff.

The above two cases are relationships of convenience. I don’t particularly want to spend my money with the above companies but I do. As long as we know where we stand; all is fine.

Conversely, there are companies with whom I actively choose to do business:

Example 3 – Emails please

My local wine shop, Reserve Wines, provide the best selection of quality wines in the North West. Whilst I am no expert when it comes to wine quality, I often pretend. So, regular tips about tasting or general facts about wine are always welcome. Likewise, if there is a new Brunello di Montalcino in the shop I want to be the first to know. Consequently I welcome their emails and wouldn’t dream of unsubscribing.

Example 4 – Emails please

Similarly I am enthusiastic about films and books and often use Amazon.co.uk or Play.com. They make regular recommendations based on my past purchases which often act as prompts to buy a recently released book, film or box set. This is highly targeted marketing that I welcome. It is useful for me and ensures a degree of loyalty – whichever company reminds me first generally gets my business. That said, I do wish they would allow me to highlight certain purchases as a “gift for my Nan” so they might stop recommending Ever Decreasing Circles.

The above examples are obvious and not particularly comprehensive but they sprang to mind after several drinks. I’m sure we can all think of examples and 99% of us will realise that being a loyal customer does not necessarily make you a loyal subscriber to e-newsletters.

I don’t know if I’ll ever change his view on the importance of unsubscribes but I do know that until he changes his views, I would never allow him to use the Extravision system.

I also know that if he ever invites me on a fishing trip, I’ll be leaving the country - Pronto!

Posted by Alastair Campbell
Topical email

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