Don't like opt-outs? Target your program better.


I get a LOT of spam here. Most of it is marked and trivial to get rid of. Some of it is what I would call semi-legitimate. It’s a real product, but I never asked to receive any information from this company and am not actually part of their demographic. For one time things I just hit delete and move on. Life is too short to complain or opt out of every spam I get. (Tried that, got more mail)
But sometimes if the same sender keeps bothering me, I will send back an email asking them to cease contact. I recently had an occasion where someone sent an initial email trying to sell me bulk SMS, online video and other services. I ignored it because we’re not in the market for any of these services. A week later I get a followup asking why I hadn’t provided feedback to them and if there was a better person to talk to at the company. I looked for a way to opt-out of this message stream, but there wasn’t one. I send a reply telling them we were not interested in speaking to them and to please cease all communication. (“You didn’t receive feedback because I have no interest in talking to you. Please cease all future contact.” Admittedly that was terse, but it was polite.)
My request to cease communication was not well received, nor was it honored. Mind you, they first contacted me trying to sell me services that are totally off what we offer. When I asked them not to contact me, they turned it around that we’d lost business.

Dear Laura,
Thank you very much for such a kind email, so nice from you…
We are using ESP1 and ESP2 at the moment, I was also interested to see which Emailer will have the best approach to may be switch to them, it will definitely won’t be We prefer to work with happy people.
A word to the wise, However…
Best Regards,

(Neither ESP mentioned was involved in sending this email, hence the edits.)
This is just so not the way to respond to a request to stop mailing someone. It was an un-targeted, cold email sent to a business address with no way to opt-out. Of course some people are going to ask you not to continue talking to them, and you stop contacting them and move on.
Even the DMA recommends letting people go if they don’t like your offer.

“We call it the ‘one bite at the apple’ rule,” [Patricia Faley of the Direct Marketing Association] says. “Give me one chance to show you what I have to offer you, and if you don’t like it, then I won’t contact you again.” Congress has hard time stomaching e-mail spam

I suspect, though, that the oh-so-friendly general manager who sent me the above email is having a hard time with his mail and his delivery. These cold emails are going out through a shared ISP server and are unauthenticated. Their targeting is horrible, and nothing we do makes us a viable target for their product. I suspect between those two things, they’re seeing a poor response to this marketing program. I can just imagine a very excited staff, that their followup email got a response and they open it to find… an unsubscribe request. In a fit of disappointment, they sent off an poorly considered email in reply.
It’s hard to put time and energy and money into a failed marketing program. I am sympathetic to the above company, who is struggling so hard to market through email that they can’t graciously accept opt-out requests. We work every day with clients who are struggling to make sense of why their program isn’t working. If this company was a client I’d recommend a number of things, starting with actually complying with CAN SPAM and including an opt-out link. Then I’d move to fixing their authentication. But the real big fix here is improving their targeting and not wasting their time, or their recipients time, trying to contact folks who are not ever going to buy their product.

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  • Sounds to me like BMS, Bad Marketer Syndrome. She just can’t wrap her mind around the possibility that someone might not want to hear from her. If you tell her to go away, that just means she hasn’t explained her fabulous opportunity in enough detail.
    I suppose a lawyer letter demanding CAN SPAM damages might be amusing.

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