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UNSUBSCRIBE. Email marketing fail.

Posted on Sunday, 27th November, 2011

Over the last few years (pre social media time) email has been the basis for my “digital” CRM communication, and remains such for a large part of the rest of the US. I consciously opt into 75% of the CRM emails I receive. Key word- consciously. It keeps everything I want in one place, my inbox. I receive ~50-60 marketing/solicitation emails a day. (Note: I DO NOT subscribe to blog post updates in email- I save that for my RSS reader/Flipboard).

I subscribe to lots of different email CRM. To date email has been my choice of how I prefer to receive information about brands/products/categories of things I’m interested in/have a relationship with. (I like everything on Facebook but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll make it into my feed, email always gets into my inbox)

  • Fashion & beauty retailers like Barneys, Bloomingdales, Origins, Sephora
  • Concert ticket announcements from Ticketmaster, LiveNation and The Bowery Presents
  • Daily deals like Gilt Group, RueLaLa, Groupon, DailyCandy
  • Personal Credit & banking updates from Amex, Citi, ING, WellsFargo
  • NYC neighborhood events and ongoings
  • Health plan updates from Aetna
  • Competitive products that I work on professionally (ps- anyone that works in marketing & doesn’t do this is not doing their job, IMO)
  • LinkedIn, Meetup, Plancast general & group updates

I rarely rant via my blog, but I am going to now- so consider yourself warned. I’m at the point that I might cease all branded email communication except for a handful of brands/companies—I know how I can find the rest of it in my Facebook/Twitter feed or one of my friends is sure to tell me about it via WOM.

I’m just so tired of bad email marketing strategies. I’m also tired of my inbox growing and growing and growing- it stresses me out (even though I subscribed to them all). However, when someone subscribes to receive email communications do you think most people anticipate they will receive 1-5 emails a day from that brand? I didn’t (and I work in the digital marketing field!) I like you and all, but enough is enough brands, you’re smothering me like a stage 5 clinger! For the last 3 holidays I have spent an entire day cleaning out my email inbox and unsubscribing from various email communications – this past Thanksgiving my inbox was at a record high of 8237. I just don’t have the time to read ALL those emails every day, or even every week if I set aside a day to read email? And quite frankly I don’t want to do that and don’t have the time to do that.

Rant over. Back to scheduled programming.


Email CRM: What to think about

This type of adverse reaction I have to my own inbox/personal interests makes me think/act more strategically about how I parlay these experiences into my professional setting by recommending best practices for proper CRM/email marketing campaigns. Because of the field I work in, (digital marketing/advertising) I know that email marketing is only one deployment channel of a larger holistic CRM program inclusive of content strategy, segmentation, and channel deployment/engagement, but right now, I’m just focusing on email and there’s 2 things I always look at with CRM:

1st registration process:

  • #1st and foremost- What are you offering me? Why should I sign up to “hear form you”?
  • How lengthy is the registration process? (seriously I don’t have a lot of time to fill out 17 fields, sorry I just don’t…luckily over the past year Oauth APIs (register with your Facebok or Twitter information) has helped matters with registration components
  • Are they asking me specific questions about me, so they can tailor communications to me to be the most relevant they can be?
  • What are they enticing me with; are their incentives (coupons, free trials, gifts, etc)
  • How often will they send me communications and through what channels?

That’s called customer segmentation. I would say 20% of the communications I opt into segment me, the rest is mass marketing (same message for everyone). Some brands might be so small/have same offering for everyone that they don’t require customer segmentation, but I would argue all brands should consider it for optimal communication engagement with their customers (another larger topic I could wax on about for hours another time).

2nd content I receive:

  • Is what (I think) I’ve opted in for always the content I receive in the emails?
  • Is the content creatively constructed, fresh/new every time I receive it?
  • Is it short and pithy and right to the point?
  • Is there an incentive/call to action in the email that further prompts me to engage with the brand?
  • Are the emails optimized for whatever platform I am reading them on (desktop/mobile?)


Wait a minute: what about email communication I did NOT opt into?

Read the fine print my friends. Another interesting factor related to email marketing is how often companies identify you as a qualified lead and subsequently send you information. (Ie: list purchases or even registration/cookies can identify me when I visit a specific brand website and everytime I go back they know it’s me and then send me a communication the next day related to what I was reading on their website. If you ever wondered if that was coincidental, it’s not. Tons of automated B2B/B2C email marketing automation programs do that like Marketto, Campaigner, iContact, and ExactTarget, Sailthru.


A few case examples that may help illustrate my point:

Poor practice email marketing that drives me crazy:

  • Too many e-mails in one day/week (Bloomingdales, please, I don’t need 3-4 emails in one day, even on Black Friday/Cyber Monday)
  • Unsubscribe services that don’t work! I understand it may take “24-48 hours” for unsubscribe requests to be processed, but please make sure they can be processed!)
  • List matching/selling: I understand how this works and some companies may sell my info to others, but brands, please make these terms of use CLEAR in your registration process so I’m not spammed with bullshit later.

Best practice email marketing strategies that make me smile:

  • Communication options AT THE TIME OF REGISTRATION liked LinkedIn groups does. Please don’t make me click through and change my settings; ask me upfront otherwise I might be too aggravated at that point to put the effort in.
  • Don’t hide your communication settings or make them too hard to find on your site (ie: Meetup who bury these setting within each individual group you signup for)
  • Bi-monthly/quarterly surveys- ask me what I want/am interested in/how often I want to be communicated with. I will always answer surveys if I am deeply rooted/connected to a brand.
  • Keep your communication content fresh and relevant
  • Incentivize me with something! Sometimes a boring story just isn’t all that interesting

I am a customer segment called “annoyed”

If your brand/product decides to build a customer relationship management program, then please INVEST in the right way to communicate with your customers. Please learn who I am, what I’m interested in knowing about related to your product, how often I want to receive communications about them and how I prefer to be contacted.

Caveat: This is time consuming and expensive to do that, I know. I am privy to the ins and outs of building digital CRM programs and customer database management, and will not down play the expense and resource management needed to optimize the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of your brand’s communication process- the database. However, the database is the driving force behind setting business rules on who the customer is, who gets what communication and when. With all the technical advancements over the past few years this is not a difficult task to accomplish and should be scoped for within any CRM program a brand runs. (Especially if you do not use an aforementioned automated CRM email program).

If your database and content strategy are not set up properly, there may be repercussions. Simply stated: if you push me content/emails that I have not asked for/that are not relevant to me I’m going to UNSUBSCRIBE, and that might amount to more than me just NOT wanting to read your emails anymore.


  1. miledys hiciano

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