5-minute Interview with Brad Shapiro, Date.com
Date.com, an online personals site, never wanted to be an e-mail marketing bad guy. But it found out one day that it was. “Our privacy director went to a conference,” explains Brad Shapiro, Date.com’s vice president of marketing and sales. “He introduced himself to the guy from the [Federal Trade Commission], who basically told him: ‘Your company is on my watch list for spam complaints.’”
Date.com, which relies heavily on e-mail prospecting, knew it needed to act quickly and decisively. Shapiro spoke with Target Marketing about this process.
Target Marketing: What were the first steps you took to right your image?
Brad Shapiro: It was about putting your money where your mouth is, having someone respond to complaints. When [you] cut a deal with a list vendor, and even though they’re supposed to have an opt-in list, you’re inevitably going to get some complaints. Those consumer complaints would go unresponded to.
TM: What did you do about it?
Shapiro: We hired an individual internally to focus solely on privacy. This individual responds to every single consumer complaint. … We try to help consumers resolve their problems. People would sometimes write to us very upset and use a lot of vulgar language in expressing themselves. We would respond to their issues, and these people turned into the nicest people.
TM: What would they say?
Shapiro: They’d say, “I can’t believe you responded, I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve written to and no one answered.” Suddenly people have a more positive view of our company.
TM: What sorts of guidelines did you establish for your marketing campaigns?
Shapiro: We decided we would not use a list again if there was more than one spam complaint per million [messages sent]. We felt that if [we’re] sending out 10 million e-mails and get 10 complaints, that’s acceptable. But if we get 15, that’s unacceptable.
TM: How did you come up with that number?
Shapiro: We had some historical data. What we found was that most good campaigns fell within less than one complaint per million. … And you must respond to complaints. You shouldn’t have auto responders; have someone respond to every complaint. It’s a simple thing, but people really don’t do it.