More on opt-out for B2B marketing

There is still a bit of discussion going on around the HBR article on how B2B mail should be opt-out not opt in on various delivery blogs. Over on the Blue Sky Factory blog new daddy (congratulations!) DJ writes a post about why he thinks opt-out in any context is a poor marketing decision.

One of his commenters follows up with a long comment about how recipients shouldn’t get angry when they get unsolicited email from a company they have interacted with.

We decide who we think may want to hear from us. The decision is not scientific, we just look at their profile and add them if we see fit. If someone in Sales gets a contact name and someone in Marketing ends up contacting that person, we’ve usually done our homework and know a bit about why we’re attempting to contact said person.

Fundamentally, though, it’s not about the sender. It’s all about the recipient.

It’s certainly possible that the company above actually considers the recipient and really are trying to send mail only to those folks who want it. But, the vast majority of companies who preach “opt-out” aren’t putting that much time or thought into the decision of whether or not to send mail to a particular recipient. If they get an email address, they add that address to marketing lists and commence sending mail.

One to one mail is OK and can be done on an opt-out basis. This is particularly true when a potential customer gives you an email address and asks for more information. But bulk email on an opt-out basis quickly overwhelms the recipient and their mailbox. An overflowing mailbox does not lead to receptive customers. Respect your contacts, respect their time and their space and don’t add them to newsletters or email marketing lists without their permission.


  1. Kelly Lorenz says

    This line in particular bugs: “We decide who we think may want to hear from us.” Well, no, you don’t. The recipient decides if your worthy of being heard from, not the other way around. If you go in with that same mindset of “Our product is the best – of COURSE you’ll want it!” you’ll end up failing every time.

    -Kelly Lorenz

  2. DJ Waldow says

    Laura –

    Thanks for the shout out. I really wish this were no longer a talking point. However, as evidenced by the number of comments on the HBR article as well as my two posts, it seems to not be going away. It was, however, refreshing to see all of the ESPs jump in and condone an opt-out policy over in the comments section of the HBR post, right?

    I’m thinking about doing yet another post that will mention this one … and that comment. Why do marketers still – in 2010 – think it’s about them and not the subscriber? That really just baffles me. I bet you agree.

    @BabyWaldow Eva says hello.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  3. Daniel Shugrue says

    Hi Laura — Thanks for your thoughts on my comment over at BSF. We are just one company and relating our experience as such. I’m not advocating that other companies do the same. I would agree that taken to the extreme, a policy like ours, at a big company, would be offensive. Agreed that many companies do abuse e-mail, and that’s why best practices are developed and espoused. One clarification, I didn’t mean to communicate that people “shouldn’t get angry” when they receive unsolicited mail. I tried to communicate two things:
    1) If someone is genuinely interested in your product (as evidenced by a recent e-mail or phone conversation) I don’t think they are shocked or angered to receive additional info from company that makes said product (Chris Brogan an exception here)
    2) My reference to anger was in terms of surprise that so many industry people would be shocked by the HBR post. It seems to me that small businesses are, in many cases and with the best intentions trying to build awareness of their product. In your and DJ’s opinion they are going about things in the wrong way. Fair enough. But the language used to describe the HBR post (“Dead Wrong”, “Scary”) etc, was in my opinion over the top. HBR represents a different viewpoint from most ESPs viewpoint. This is not a life or death matter, it is a matter of e-mail policy.

  4. Al says

    I feel like you’re employing a bit of misdirection there, Daniel. It is TRUE that if somebody is genuinely interested, then they may not be shocked to receive additional info. The problem is, they don’t want that in unsolicited email. Every possible study ever done shows that the majority of people hate spam. Full stop. End of story.


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