Understanding the downsides of email marketing

Cartoon man typing on keyboard, looking at computer screen.

Email marketing is primarily a means for the exchange of information between individuals. It has quickly become one of the preferred media for marketers: only 20% of emails are received from known senders.

A study of U.S. marketers have shown that they sent 200 billion emails in 2004 alone. Hence, it is also seen as an intrusive tool by many users, thanks to misuse by organizations or individuals whose intent is either unscrupulous or downright harmful.

The term spam is usually used to describe this kind of unwanted and abusive communication.

We are currently experiencing a critical period with regard to the use of e-mail communication and future developments may well sound the death knell for many companies that use the wrong communication medium.

Spam filters

To prevent receiving more frequent junk mail, there is the proliferation of tools aimed at eliminating unwanted email. These filters are either embedded in an email client, or on personal computers. Depending on the type of filter, an email sender can be blocked permanently by the user.

Some filters use the Bayesian approach, named after the British mathematician Thomas Bayes, who proposed the Bayes theorem: this approach can mathematically calculate the probability that a message is spam by referring to previous and similar occurrences.

Microsoft has invested in research of this type of software since 1997.

Some of these filters are available in mobile e-mail software such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail, but are also installed in Netscape Messenger and Outlook. Among the popular software found include SurfControl Sigaba, MessageLabs, Brightmail, and NetIQ6.

What is paradoxical is that, firstly, these filters prevent legitimate emails from reaching their destinations because often the manager of the tool is needed as an arbiter in deciding what is or is not spam e-mail.

Mechanism of a relationship marketing (permission)

The concept of one-to-one by Seth Godin applies to go well beyond the simple factual relationship of converting a prospect into a customer. This concept, in fact, seeks to convert the client as a friend, which of course in turn converts more prospects.

This form of marketing invests customer relationship: it implies that the company and the customer will discuss more than the single transaction and the company undertakes to respect the interests and needs of the client.

This is the opposite of interruptive advertising, the mass media, which does not require any permission to interrupt the customer’s business, in turn, receives less attention.

According to Seth Godin, this is a long-term email marketing approach because the company must continually strive to reapply to the customer’s permission. Necessarily, the company must commit to keep its promises to make this strategy work.

Unfortunately, over the years, it seems that permission has become something very subjective and, therefore, even the serious companies are compared to less scrupulous companies and probably soon suffer the consequences of these abuses.

It becomes clear that only firms that bother to have clear business rules and policies of respect for private life survive the use of email marketing as a vehicle for commerce.

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