Would you buy a used car from that guy?


There are dozens of people and companies standing up and offering suggestions on best practices in email marketing. Unfortunately, many of those companies don’t actually practice what they preach in managing their own email accounts.
I got email today to an old work email address of mine from Strongmail. To be fair it was a technically correct email. Everything one would expect from a company handling large volumes of emails.  It’s clear that time and energy was put into the technical setup of the send. If only they had put even half that effort into deciding who to send the email to. Sadly, they didn’t.
My first thought, upon receiving the mail, was that some new, eager employee bought a very old and crufty list somewhere. Because Strongmail has a reputation for being responsible mailers, I sent them a copy of the email to abuse@. I figured they’d want to know that they had a new sales / marketing person who was doing some bad stuff.
I know how frustrating handling abuse@ can be, so I try to be short and sweet in my complaints. For this one, I simply said, “Someone at Strongmail has appended, harvested or otherwise acquired an old email address of mine. This has been added to your mailing list and I’m now receiving spam from you. ”
They respond with an email that starts with:
“Thank you for your thoughtful response to our opt-in request. On occasion, we provide members of our database with the opportunity to opt-in to receive email marketing communications from us.”
Wait. What? Members of our database? How did this address get into your database?
“I can’t be sure from our records but it looks like someone from StrongMail reached out to you several years ago.  It’s helpful that you let us know to unsubscribe you.  Thank you again.”
There you have it. According to the person answering email at abuse@ Strongmail they sent me a message because they had sent mail to me in the past. Is that really what you did? Send mail to very old email addresses because someone, at some point in the past, sent mail to that address? And you don’t know when, don’t know where the address came from, don’t know how it was acquired, but decided to reach out to me?
How many bad practices can you mix into a single send, Strongmail? Sending mail to addresses where you don’t know how you got them? Sending mail to addresses that you got at least 6 years ago? Sending mail to addresses that were never opted-in to any of your mail? And when people point out, gently and subtly, that maybe this is a bad idea, you just add them to your global suppression list?
Oh. Wait. I know what you’re going to tell me. All of your bad practices don’t count because this was an ‘opt-in’ request. People who didn’t want the mail didn’t have to do anything, therefore there is no reason not to spam them! They ignore it and they are dropped from your list. Except it doesn’t work that way. Double opt-in requests to someone has asked to be subscribed or is an active customer or prospect is one thing. Requests sent to addresses of unknown provenance are still spam.
Just for the record, I have a good idea of where they got my address. Many years ago Strongmail approached Word to the Wise to explore a potential partnership. We would work with and through Strongmail to provide delivery consulting and best practices advice for their customers. As part of this process we did exchange business cards with a number of Strongmail employees. I suspect those cards were left in a desk when the employees moved on. Whoever got that desk, or cleaned it out, found  those cards and added them to the ‘member database.’
But wait! It gets even better. Strongmail was sending me this mail, so that they could get permission to send me email about Email and Social Media Marketing Best Practices. I’m almost tempted to sign up to provide me unending blog fodder for my new series entitled “Don’t do this!”

About the author


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

  • How many bad practices can you mix into a single send, Strongmail?
    Here’s another one. I got the same spam from Strongmail, and replied to the email (reply@strongmail.com) explaining that the address they’d sent it to hadn’t been in use for five years or more, and where did they get it?
    No reply yet. That’s some really bad response to a problem – and I suspect they don’t actually have anyone reading that address.

  • > “Strongmail was sending me this mail, so that they could get permission to send me email about Email and Social Media Marketing Best Practices”
    I got an spammy marketing email from Return Path once – after clearly saying that we weren’t interested at the time (*and* targeting a completely different type of client than we would’ve been), which seemed to be from a new sales guy there.
    The difference in this situation was that I got a personal email from the CEO of Return Path, and a phone call from the European VP of Sales & Client Services.

  • Counting the seconds until Strongmail wants to get you on the phone and tell you what great guys they really are. (They’re not really bad guys, but that’s not the point…)

  • Yes big players in the industry have a hand in the cookie jar. Just the other day I observed a reputable ESP engaging in “TINS army” behavior in order to remedy deliverability problems.
    It is what it is.

  • Hi Laura, et. all
    I am the VP of Marketing for StrongMail. I apologize for your experience and understand your point of view. Periodically we send emails to members of our database who have conducted business with us before, providing them with the opportunity to opt-in to receive regular email communications from us. This is called an opt-in campaign, and in some circles is even considered a best practice. We have not added any of the individuals who received this communication to our mailing list, nor do we plan to send them email on a regular basis. The purpose of this email was simply to request their consent to do so.
    All of that said, I do understand and respect your point of view on this issue. Feel free to reach out to me directly should you have any additional questions or concerns.

  • nobody opted in to being asked if they want to opt in. it is still intrusive marketing. it is still spam. you should know better.
    why do marketers try so hard to call something opt in when there is no in to opt?
    orwell was right.
    so much for strongmail, into the blacklist you go.

By laura

Recent Posts


Follow Us