Editor’s Notes: What Would You Do for an Email?

Thorin McGee, Editor-in-Chief/Content Director, Target Marketing

I recently received a brilliant email from Harry & David, the long-time cataloger of food and gift baskets. At Christmas, I had ordered its pears as gifts for my home and for some of my more far-flung family members. The email was a simple request for review—Harry & David asked what I thought of the gifts.

The part of the email I thought was brilliant was that Harry & David offered a way for me to forward the email directly to the gift recipients (via Harry & David’s forward-to-a-friend form) and just have them answer for themselves.

Of course, that gives Harry & David the recipients’ email addresses and a very friendly, innocuous way to request opt-in for email communication.

Even better, by getting my family members to opt-in this way, Harry & David can avoid offering a deep-discount onboarding offer. It’s basically an assisted word-of-mouth campaign that preserves a high perception of the value of Harry & David’s products to the recipients—who received them in a high-value context (as Christmas gifts) in the first place.

The people I sent those gift baskets to should be high-value prospects to Harry & David, because they’ve already sampled the products and Harry & David sells on the quality and taste. Heck, that’s how I became a customer.

That’s a lot of upside. Harry & David should really want to add those email addresses to its database, and this is a clever way to get them.

But, at the same time, it’s a bit sneaky. Harry & David is essentially asking me to recommend its emails to my family without outright asking me to do that. It also takes advantage of me being too busy (or lazy) to review my own gifts. The whole tactic feels a little exploitative.

Email is still the most used and effective marketing medium according to our 2012 Media Usage Survey. Those email addresses are worth a great deal to Harry & David, or any other marketer who uses email.

But is this going too far to get them? How far is too far? Let us know on LinkedIn’s Integrated Marketing Mix group, or on Twitter @TargetMktg.

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.
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