Email non-viable for acquisition


Chris Marriott over at iMediaConnection talks about all the reasons email is a non-starter as a replacement for direct mail. This is something I have been telling clients for a while now. Chris mentions a number of reasons for why email is not an acquisition tool.

Today, banks can flood your mailbox with all the credit card offers they want, but they can’t flood your email box with the same offers. First, it’s not as easy to get your email address as it is your postal address. Second, even if a business has your email address, you can opt-out of that first prospecting email and be free forever from further offers. For these very important reasons, there is no direct linear progression from mail to email in the marketing world. Email is the most cost-effective retention, cross-sell and loyalty tactic in the universe, but it is not a viable acquisition tool in the way that direct mail is (though some would argue both are equally bad due to the sheer amount of wasted impressions).

The big reason he missed is complaints. It is difficult, if not impossible, to complain about direct mail. Even the opt-outs listed on the circulars do not work. For email, though, complaints are trivial. The ISPs have set up and manage a way for recipients to tell a sender they do not want any mail from that sender. Those complaints feed a scoring engine that allows the ISP to block mail that the recipients mark as spam. This feedback process makes it extremely difficult to use purchased email lists to acquire new customers.
Hat tip: BeRelevant

About the author


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I agree that purchased lists are a bad idea and extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain acceptable complaint rates with.
    But I think saying that “email is not viable for customer acquisition” might be too broad of a statement. I wouldn’t have any problem with “Purchasing lists is not viable for customer acquisition”
    There are lots of ways to do customer acquisition through email without purchasing a list. Services like CoolSavings can provide customer acquisition through email messages that have a lot of similarity to the direct mail model. People love to sign up for email lists that send them coupons, travel specials, new gadgets and sweepstakes.
    When users receive a message from one of these lists, it looks a lot like direct mail. The body of the email is primarily an advertisement. Better lists have strong branding that the user recognizes. But I know lots of examples of companies that are able to provide a list “rental” instead of actually selling the list without going over the complaint thresholds and while maintaining whitelists at all the ISPs.

By laura

Recent Posts


Follow Us