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Where do subscribers come from?

Do you know all the ways subscribers can get on your lists?
Are you sure?
I recently used the contact form belonging to a marketing company to inform them that someone had stolen my email address from their database and I was receiving spam to the address only they had.
They had an opt-out link on the form, allowing me to opt-out of personal contact and a demo of their product. But that opt-out didn’t translate to not adding me to their marketing list.
When I contacted the person who was talking with me about the address leak, he told me it was the contact form that led to my address ending up on their marketing list. I asked, just to make sure, if I did remember to check the opt-out link. He confirmed I had, but there was an oversight when they updated their contact page and there was no opt-out for marketing mail.
I believe that the majority of delivery problems for real companies that “only send mail with permission” come from these types of oversights. The biggest problem with these oversights is how long they can go on until companies notice the effect. With the overall  focus on aggregate delivery statistics (complaint rates, bounces, etc) oversights like this aren’t noticed until they cause some massive problem, like a SBL listing or a block at a major ISP.
The company involved in this most recent incident was very responsive to my contact and immediately corrected the oversight. But there are other companies that don’t notice or respond to the notifications individuals send. This leads to resentment and frustration on the part of the recipient.
Every company should have at least one person who can account for every address on their marketing list. Who is that person at your company?
 

5 comments

  1. Bill Silverstein says

    A link to, or statement in the e-mail showing the source, time, date, and IP address of the signup should be included in each e-mail.
    Doing this would go a long way to show that the e-mail is legit and not spam. It will also encourage people to slick the unsubscribe link instead of identifying the e-mail as spam.

  2. Louis Slade says

    To add on, It’s important to give to your clients the option to opt-out of subscriptions. Failing to do so can cause clients to become frustrated, and losing their business is a lot worse than not being able to tell them about new deals coming up.
    Louis Slade
    Email Marketing Company

  3. Huey says

    @Bill: No, “the source, time, date, and IP address of the signup” can, at MOST, only show that the email is legit to the subscriber, and then only if it is accurate. You just posted a comment to this blog, which means that wordtothewise now knows your IP address at a given timestamp. Suppose that information made it into someone else’s hands, and months from now you start getting spam that says you signed up, and gives an IP address that was actually yours at a timestamp you were actually using it?
    So it’s pretty trivial to correlate many email addresses with the IP addresses of their owners, but coming up with plausible-looking fakes is even easier. …and some of the bad guys have been doing this for years already. I agree that good guys should have an audit trail and know the source of their data, but including that in an email doesn’t really convey much in the way of useful information.

  4. Bill Silverstein says

    @Huey: I disagree, having a line saying: “You signed up from 192.168.1.11 on 11/1/2011 at 10:03 am on http://www.website.com/signup.html” does ad to credibility. Yes, spammers can fake this information, but if you never heard of http://www.website.com/signup.html, it can go a ways towards exposing them. However, all information can be faked and it might match. Just because it is not foolproof does not mean it is not effective.

  5. Huey says

    ‘Effective’ at what? It’s only meaningful (and only to the recipient, and only if they notice and care) if it’s true, and if it’s true you don’t really need it.
    Also, “This email is not spam because you signed up at (URL) from (IP) at (DTG)”, is a little too close to “This email is not spam because, per senate bill S1618, it includes an opt-out mechanism…”. If you feel the need to convince people that your email isn’t spam, then your engagement strategy is broken. They should already know why they’re getting the mail.

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