Another Reason Why Your Email Marketing Isn't Working

This is intended as an afterthought supplement to the post our very own Steve Robinson did about why your email marketing isn’t working. Forgive me for being blunt, but one reason why your email marketing isn’t working? Because you’re being annoying.

Here’s a true story, that might not seem like a big deal at first but let it sit after you read this next paragraph.

A friend of mine, Kevin, signed up another friend of mine, Dracula, for Brand Ninja’s — I’m replacing the real company and friend names to protect ‘em — email list without asking permission. Well, the email list is actually an exclusive, invite-only entree into getting a credit card that gives you discounts on almost anything you buy that’s relevant to running a business. When Brand Ninja received Dracula’s email address in their database, they were thrilled. Maybe a little too thrilled. They proceeded to send Dracula several enthused emails about everything they have to do to get set up with this sweet new credit card.

What’s missing here?

Dracula’s consent.

What’s also missing here?

Brand Ninja didn’t send a quick, polite email just to check that Dracula, in fact, wanted to be on this email list and was interested in their services.

What was likely going on here was Kevin was jazzed to be on and thought he’d spread the cheer in the season’s giving spirit. Well, that, and also one of those incentive programs where you get a sweeter deal on your deal if you refer other folks to sign up, as well.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these tactics, per se, but there are a lot of assumptions being made. Kevin’s assuming Dracula is interested. Brand Ninja is assuming Dracula is interested.

Without either person checking, one person might have broken the law and the other is being a jerk. You can figure out which is which.

The law that’s technically being broken is the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act, which exists to “regular interstate commerce by imposing limitations and penalties on the transmission of unsolicited commercial electronic mail via the Internet.” Unfortunately, the law is kind of a joke because it does not require permission to send marketing messages — what it does require is it being very clear how to opt out. But if you didn’t opt in or ask to opt in in the first place, how is that any different from spam?

In other words, if this is someone’s first exposure and interaction to and with your company and they didn’t ask for it? You’re as good as blocked forever.

So, do the decent thing: Check that extra address you just got belongs to someone who wants to belong to your database.

Also, hi Dracula! 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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