Spam Fallout: Let's Not Agree to Disagree
As an agency or service provider, you've likely been faced with the challenge of dealing with a client who wants it done their way—no matter what. When you're sending thousands or millions of emails, this type of stubbornness can have an impact well beyond one campaign. Sometimes agreeing to disagree can be detrimental to not just their business, but also yours.
Our client had accumulated a sizeable email list—names collected using standard business practices and one that, if used for direct mail, would have been stellar. However, as you know, scanning badges at events or researching email addresses for people with whom you've had limited contact doesn't make for an opt-in email list and presents risks beyond simple undeliverability—it can mean being marked as a spammer for the foreseeable future.
In our first event with this client, after considerable discussions surrounding how often they were sending, what they were sending, and how well they knew the individuals, we sent to their entire list. The trouble came after the send when we found spam complaints to be ten times higher than industry-acceptable limits. Further conversations revealed we were simply speaking a different language. To them, opt-in meant they had acquired the list through their day-to-day, typical business transactions. To us, opt-in meant someone had completed a form or clicked a link to specifically grant permission to receive email correspondence. This gap in communication resulted in not just poor campaign results, but also putting the client's domain on the radar of spam cops the world over.
After re-developing the campaign strategy and adopting a much more conservative approach, the client wasn't happy with the slow migration of their master list into a proper opt-in list. In fact, they were so unhappy, they demanded we scrap the process and go back to blasting the entire list, sans the required opt-in. This made for terse discussions and the resolution just couldn't be, "Let's agree to disagree."
On this topic, we were forced to take a stand—one that may well have included firing the client. Their cavalier consideration of the CAN-SPAM act would have them sending emails through our agency email-automation account, which could easily result in damaging their reputation long term, our reputation as a sender, our reputation as a service provider, and the email application's ability to reach inboxes for them, us, and the vendor's other clients. With so much at stake, the resolution was simply no. "No, you cannot continue to send emails to a list of people who clearly do not remember you, who have not been reminded of their relationship with you, and who have ready access to the spam button."
With the benefit of a solid relationship with this client, when we bandied about phrases such as "illegal and not in compliance," "marked as a spammer, which could affect your ability to deliver even standard business emails," "getting kicked out of your email-automation application," "shutting down our account," they relented and conceded to return to the slower, earn-the-business approach.
It's rarely easy to have conversations where dire consequences are involved, but when your business and the business of others are at risk, it's up to you to stand firm and establish guidelines for protecting everyone's interests. Your client may not like—or understand—the new rules of the road, but they will respect you for defending their ability to continue to do business on the digital highway.
P.S. For more information on how to avoid the spam cops, attend the All About Email live conference where I'll be sharing a slide deck on keeping out of trouble in the US, Canada, and abroad.
Email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, improve service, and keep your customers engaged. Email campaigns are best bolstered through an integrated strategy that crosses channels and meets your constituents where they congregate and in the media they prefer. “The Integrated Email” provides best practices and ideas for developing strategies and deploying email campaigns and initiatives while keeping an eye on revenue attributable to marketing.
Cyndie Shaffstall, founder, Spider Trainers, is a successful entrepreneur and prolific author, with many books, dozens of eBooks, and hundreds of articles to her credit. She is the former founder of ThePowerXChange, editor and publisher of X-Ray Magazine, and the current founder and managing member of Spider Trainers, a managed automated email services provider for companies around the world. Connect with Cyndie on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or join her LinkedIn Group, the Marketing Resource Library for daily links to marketing-critical resources.