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Targeted marketing done badly

There was quite a bit of content I cut out on my rant about parasites in the email ecosystem earlier this week. I had whole section on people who ask to connect on LinkedIn and then immediately send a pitch or scrape your address and add it to their marketing automation software and start spamming. Generally, the only reason I will drop someone off LinkedIn is because they do this.

envelopes

Today, one of the deliverability mailing lists has been hopping over spam many folks in the industry received. The discussion started off simple enough, someone said “Is <companyname> spamming the industry?” People immediately chimed in that yeah, it did appear so.

A few people said they’d gotten the message and thought it was personal and were disappointed it wasn’t. Others weren’t sure why they were chosen to receive this message, or why some of their co-workers were chosen. A few of us didn’t get them. I didn’t.

This is a great example of marketing that was reasonably well planned, but a total fail for not knowing their audience. The product in question is an anti-abuse product. The company wants to reach people in the anti-abuse industry. They go off and find people in the anti-abuse industry and send them an email. Mail that seems personalized. It was a perfectly reasonable email. It asked questions and did get some people to engage with it by replying. They even appear to have done A/B testing on subject lines.

All solid marketing decisions. All great things to do.

But, the anti-abuse community is small, particularly the ESP anti-abuse community. We talk on mailing lists, IRC, LinkedIn, Facebook and Slack – and those are just the places I’m connected to. I’m sure there are other meeting places. The fact is, we’re a community and we do interact. If you’re going to try and do something like this, you have to expect that we’re going to realize you’re spamming. And many of us have very low tolerance for this kind of stuff.

A few years ago I worked with some senders who acquired most of their email addresses from technical conferences. They had a lot of delivery problems because a lot of their audience were the people who wrote and maintained filters. Spam the person who writes a spam filter and you may find yourself locked out from all of those filter users. I finally realized I couldn’t help those clients. No amount of technical perfection, personalization, looking like one-to-one mail or magic address cleaning is going to make this audience want your mail.

Marketing starts at understanding your audience. Permission is one of the better ways to understand your audience. Marketing to the anti-abuse crowd is a challenge. I can’t see any place where unsolicited email successfully fits into that plan.

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