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Audiences, targeting and signups

A few weeks ago we closed on our new house in Dublin. This weekend we’re going to one of those ‘home shows’ where people try and sell you all sorts of things for your home. We know there are some things we want to do with the house so we’re headed out to the convention centre this weekend. Tickets are “free” but they ask for contact information, including an email address.

Given who we are, this sparked a discussion about the email address we wanted to give them. Right now, we’re in a place where we actually want a lot of email about home stuff. We know we need attic insulation and a new heating system and furniture and so yeah, email from the show vendors is good right now. But we also know that this email address will be traded and sold for the next 20 years. We could set up a tagged address and just route it to /dev/null when we’re tired of mail. Instead, we decided to set up a whole new address to use for house things, one that we could set to bounce when we were bored of getting house related mail.

It will be interesting to see what kind of mail we get over time to this address. Are the marketers smart enough to change what they send based on how long they’ve had our address? Or will the mail change with the seasons? Both are legitimate marketing techniques. It will also be interesting to see how they handle this data in the context of GDPR.

In this case, we’re a clear target for this marketing and, in many ways, receptive to all the stuff they’re selling. We’re receptive, they’re going to send us email, it’s all good. We know what we’re getting into, they are getting good subscribers. Everybody is happy. We’ll continue to be happy with the mail until we’re moved in and feel like all the bits are finished and then we’ll either unsubscribe from everything or, more likely, just turn the address off.

Targeting.

Sometimes I don’t know how savvy marketers always are about their audience, though. Two recent examples come to mind.

A friend of mine got engaged last week. She’s looking at planning a wedding. This is another major opportunity for marketing to collect information and bridal shows are huge. Many brides of the digital generation know what they’re getting into when the give an email address to a bridal magazine or to a bridal show. I’ve seen some discussions that the right thing to do is open a gmail account just to handle wedding planning and subscriptions. But, like buying and furnishing a new house, a wedding is a limited amount of time. Anywhere from a few days to 2 or so years. From what I’ve heard, though, not all wedding vendors are that great about sunsetting addresses.

In another case, I was talking with a startup. They’re a fairly new news / political insight organization that was working with some marketing experts to grow their lists. They decided to use co-reg and it was successful increasing their list size by an order of magnitude. It also tanked their delivery. Part of my end of the conversation was about how to fix their delivery. But that was only part of the conversation. A much bigger piece of the conversation was walking them through some discussion of what audience they were looking for and whether or not co-reg was a good way to find that audience.

Fundamentally, though, “people we can get to give us an email address” do not always equate to “people who want our mail.” Recently one of my ESP clients was dealing with a customer who had a lot of delivery challenges and we eventually worked out the problem set of addresses was from wifi logins. Yes, lots of places expect an email address for a wifi login. Lots of users don’t want any mail based on that login. If those addresses become too big a portion of the mailing list, then it can tank delivery for all subscribers.

Part of the challenge of running a successful email marketing program is understanding your subscribers and your collection processes. Email is an amazing communication channel that is constantly evolving. The audience is evolving in what they want and what their needs are. Technology is evolving. Filters are evolving to handle the morphing threats. What worked yesterday might work today but not tomorrow. Marketers have to evolve, too, or risk not reaching the inbox or their audience.

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