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Are you sure? Part 2

There was a bit of discussion about yesterday’s blog post over on my G+ circles. One person was telling me that “did you forget you opted-in?” was a perfectly valid question. He also commented he’s had the same address for 20 years and that he does, sometimes forget he opted in to mail years ago.
As an anti-spammer with the idea that it’s all about consent, I can see his point. Anti-spammers, for years, have chanted the mantra: “it’s about consent, not content.” Which is a short, pithy way to say they don’t care what you send people, as long as the recipients themselves have asked for it.
This is the perfect bumper sticker policy. As with most bumper sticker policies, though, it’s too short to deal with the messy realities.
I’m not knocking consent. Consent is great. Every bulk mailer should only be sending mail to people who have asked or agreed to receive that mail.
But if your focus is on delivery and getting mail to the recipient’s inbox and getting the recipient to react to that mail then you can’t just fall back on consent. You have to send them mail that they expect. You have to send them mail that they like. You have to send them mail they will open, read and interact with.
If your permission based recipients are saying they forgot that they signed up for mail, that is a sign that the sender’s program is futile. These are people who, at one point or another, actually asked to receive mail from a sender, and then the mail they receive is so unremarkable that they totally forget about the sender.
Maybe that’s another reason the question “are you sure you didn’t forget you opted in” from clients bothers me so much. If I signed up and forgot that points to problems in your program, mostly that it’s totally unremarkable and your subscribers can forget.

5 comments

  1. Al says

    The question bothers me because those of us who deal with these issues daily know that sure, some spam complaints come from people who opted-in and then forgot about it. But they come in much lower numbers than non-permission mail, and ISPs know this. They’re (mostly) good about blocking non-permission mail while not blocking permission-based mail. Those few complaints from people who opted-in are recognized as less of an issue, because there are fewer of them. It’s just not an issue most of the time. And yet, as you mentioned, this is sort of a knee jerk response from an offended, blocked sender: The blocking must be because those people must have opted-in and forgot about it and complained! Uhh, no.

  2. laura says

    And, this isn’t really about complaints. I’m not sending in a complaint about mail, I’m looking at my own received spam to help a client with their delivery problems.
    There’s a flip side to this that I might write about tomorrow.

  3. Catherine Jefferson says

    A couple of years ago, when Al was working at a different ESP, I talked with him about something that illustrates exactly what you wrote about, Laura. Al might remember — my husband got bulk email from a company that he didn’t recognize about a product that he’d never before heard of, from the ESP where Al was working. Since I had no spamtrap hits or other hits at all, I probably would’ve ignored it, but I knew Al was working at the ESP, so I emailed him. It turned out that a different company that made a software product that my husband bought and for which he’d signed up for updates had been bought by the company that sent the email. I could legitimately claim repurposing because the advertisement was about a different product, but the email address had in fact been obtained legitimately and with confirmed opt-in. It certainly wasn’t a clear-cut case of spamming.
    However, it was a clear-cut case of a new company that just didn’t get it about email. They had a strong and enforced confirmed opt-in process, but didn’t bother to ensure that the recipients of their emails were getting the emails that they expected and wanted. The new company “forgot” to introduce itself and explain who it was in their bulk emails, and then sent email so unlike anything that the recipient expected that he reported it to me as spam. And this isn’t somebody who habitually forgets what he signs up for or accuses companies of spamming cavalierly.
    Good article. I hope marketers are listening.

  4. The Proverbial Barry says

    if marketers were listening they’d have heard it by now

  5. Word to the Wise: Consent vs Content « Get In The Inbox says

    […] But if your focus is on delivery and getting mail to the recipient’s inbox and getting the recipient to react to that mail then you can’t just fall back on consent. You have to send them mail that they expect. You have to send them mail that they like. You have to send them mail they will open, read and interact with.…read on […]

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