3 Near-Death Experiences for Email Marketing

In its relatively brief history, email marketing has survived two “near death” experiences — the wholesale blocking of bulk mailers and the myriad laws that led to CAN-SPAM. This doesn’t include several lesser ones, such as the suppression of images and links. As an industry, email marketers have learned quite a lot from these experiences and they’re all stronger for it. Surely you can survive anything.

Or can you?

Your very survival is threatened once again, this time from “spear phishers” who use social engineering to target your own employees, often to then launch additional attacks in your company’s good name. The bad players used to target just internet service providers (ISPs), but now they have their sights set on you. They not only cause monetary losses and tarnished reputations, but also deal a blow to the trust you rely on every day to do business with your customers and partners.

Will this new threat put you out of business? Will you emerge stronger than before? Time will tell. But first, what did you learn from your first two near-death experiences?

Experience No. 1: Near Death by Blunt Instrument
It was late 2002 when ISPs realized that spam had crossed a magic threshold — about 40 percent of all traffic (incredibly low by today’s standard of 85 percent to 90 percent) — and had to be stopped to protect their networks and subscribers. So at the height of the holiday mailing season, AOL and other ISPs delivered a near deathblow to the industry with a very blunt instrument — wholesale blocking of bulk mailers.

Quite naturally, the legitimate brands and email service providers that supported them were up in arms, not just because wholesale blocking ruined their holiday campaign plans but because email marketing had just begun to prove itself a major contributor to their bottom lines. The protests from email marketers and their proclamations of legitimacy fell on deaf ears, however. The ISPs had a community of subscribers to protect. Yes, their filtering techniques were blunt instruments and caused great collateral damage, but the reality was that ISPs couldn’t tell the difference between the good players and the bad largely because they looked and behaved too much alike.

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