Permission Marketing

We all know permission management in email marketing is very important, but I recently had a good reminder of just how important it is.

Here at Atom Insight we have had a brand new set of infrastructure installed; file servers, analytic servers, Sharepoint servers, Exchange servers, the lot.  I took the opportunity of this new beginning to get on top of my email management and deal with my spam overload.

At this point, the email recipient (me) is faced with a choice; take the easy option and flag the email as spam, or go through the unsubscribe process of the sender.  Being sympathetic to the sender as I am (ISP spam notifications severely damage the delivery rates of email) I think before reporting email as spam, so I went down the “unsubscribe” route.

What I found, unfortunately, was a minority of companies with effective “1-click unsubscribe”, and the majority having convoluted (seemingly, in some cases, purposefully to prevent one from unsubscribing) or just plain ineffective unsubscribe processes.

For context, we’re not talking about Nigerian Bankers or Cialis (whatever that might be!) salesmen here – they get flagged as spam immediately – we’re talking about big names and proper businesses; Amazon, iTunes, PizzaHut (no wait, I kept myself subscribed to that one!), etc…  I won’t name and shame in this post, suffice to say that the worst offenders were among the bigger names.

So, here follows my list of issues and dirty tricks.

  1. Firstly, make sure your process, no matter how convoluted, actually works.  Having followed the process, I do actually want to stop receiving email from you!
  2. Don’t make me sign in to unsubscribe.  I lost my password to your site years ago and don’t want to engage with you beyond unsubscribing myself from your mail list.  Putting a parameter in the unsubscribe link will authenticate that I am the recipient of that email, rather than some rascal who goes around the place unsubscribing people from mail lists.
  3. One particularly sneaky company had a “subscribe” and “unsubscribe” box (“enter your email address to subscribe/unsubscribe”) on the same page.  When you land on this page the “subscribe” box is selected by default, so entering your address here will simply “re-subscribe” you to email.  First time round I didn’t notice, only spotting the rouse on my second unsubscribe attempt.

A good deal of these issues will be through incompetent design, but some are clearly designed to be convoluted to prevent the user from successfully unsubscribing.

This is counter productive, the end result of such tactics is that the credibility of the brand is diminished with me (recall, I’m not unsubscribing because I dislike the brand, rather to make managing my email easier) and I block them by reporting them as spam, which achieves my objective, but damages their delivery rate.

This is why the email marking strategies and processes we deliver for our clients have permission marketing best practice at their core.