Email marketing is free but it can cost you dearly

Recently I came across several writings about bad marketing practices that I wanted to share with you. I thought they might help you with your own marketing plans and campaigns.

The first is a 2012 survey conducted by Pitney Bowes. The accompanying report entitled “Why Some of Your Customers Are Just Not That into You” gives the results of the survey and identifies several marketing no-no’s, from the consumer’s perspective. At the top of the list of bad practices, receiving the highest percentage of negative feedback, is weekly emails. A whopping 89% of those surveyed found emails sent once per week to be extremely annoying. Although I agree completely, I was surprised both by the high percentage as well as the frequency of contact which bothered folks. I had no idea so many others felt the same way.

Next, in the May 2012 Quick Printing Magazine is an article by Steve Johnson entitled “Email Marketing is Too Easy”. In it Johnson describes how, after he made a single purchase, a large mail order company bombarded his email with coupons and specials for unrelated products. Not only did they send email too often, they sent irrelevant information he had no interest in — it had no connection to his original purchase. “Email has the power to annoy that is unmatched by any other medium”, concludes Johnson. He’s right. Johnson says savvy marketers find success with a good mix of print and digital marketing. What’s a good mix? It’s all about testing, tweaking and testing again. We’ve written about this before.

The last related article I wanted you to read is in the June 2012 issue of Target Marketing. In the Famous Last Words column, Denny Hatch likened the practice of opening his Yahoo! email inbox every morning to “going into a vast sewer looking for a turd that doesn’t smell.” Do you think Denny is sick and tired of spam cluttering up his inbox? He’s not alone. Denny also has some neat ideas about a spam-free Government sponsored email system. Check out the full article here. Would you, like Denny, gladly pay to avoid spam? I would. We’ll see where ideas like this lead us.

So what do these articles tell us? That there is a lot of emotion surrounding email marketing. And we’re not talking warm and fuzzies here. All the emotion is negative. Email may be free but if you’re using it for marketing purposes you need to do things right or there is a real risk that you’ll alienate customers. Doing things right means walking the fine line between (1) staying in contact with your customers and (2) annoying them and chasing them away.

We try and try to walk that line but we just can’t please everyone. Our mailing list subscribers get no more than one (1) email per month (and each with a valuable coupon), but as infrequent as that is, people still occasionally unsubscribe. And we totally get it! Information overload is getting to all of us. We are frustrated more and more by companies that don’t think about our feelings and just keep sending us email after email. Some are so annoying in their tactics that they literally lose customers because of it.

So be careful. Email may be “free” but it can cost you dearly if you abuse it.

About Tom Gimer

I guess you'd call me the "technical" guy at the shop. When the machines start to act up, they call me in. (I then call a service tech.) When I'm not dealing with the machines, you'll find me writing copy and/or code for clients. Find me virtually on and LinkedIn.

Comments on this Post

  1. Jon Wright says:

    Frequency is not the issue, relevance is.

    • Tom Gimer says:

      John: Thanks for your feedback. From what we’re seeing, frequency is also very important. Send me stuff too often, relevant or not, and I’m unsubscribing.

  2. I send emails 3 times a week to over 13,000 subscribers. Open rate averages 36%, and 40% CTRs. 80% is fresh, practical and useful info, 20% is promotional content. I only get complaints when I go on vacation and don’t send any emails out. My emails are in text format. Most of it is story telling, gossip & open loops. 76% is female audience, and they come from either my lingerie e-commerce store or forwards.

    From personal experience Email marketing is still the best, most personal way to communicate with an individuals. It’s responsible for a little over 40% of my revenue. It’s an asset.

    • Tom Gimer says:

      Danny: I read your comment with great interest to see how you could get such high rates with email. Then I saw what you sell — LINGERIE! Try marketing a “dull” product or service and report back with your rates please! –Tom

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