The Emarketing Blog

Do-it-yourself Online Event Management and Digital Marketing Tips to Help Your Organization Succeed

A Question About Opt-Out Granularity

Posted on | August 10, 2010 | No Comments

A recent post in the Marketing Dissector asks why most email systems only allow blanket opt-outs for recipients.  There is no simple answer to this problem, but the blame doesn’t entirely rest on the providers’ shoulders…

The Mail Train (Library of Congress)

One of the first things you learn in direct marketing – and this is a direct marketing issue at heart – is that your mail (or email) list is the first place you start with any campaign.  If you don’t get your list right, the rest falls apart. Wrong audience. Wrong message. Wrong offer. Wrong response. OPT-OUT in droves.  (Note: This is the part of direct mail that is no different from good solid PR tactics…find the right editor; target the right message, or they’ll “opt out,” too. Aside: I stand by my claim that ALL good marketing starts with good PR.)

The direct marketer’s role is to segment the list correctly and make sure that the right message hits the right target through the right channel at the right time.  (Thank you, Peppers & Rogers…)  But doing this in reality is really hard as, even, the largest marketing automation users with the most sophisticated behavior or trigger-based marketing campaigns will attest.

Many marketers – stressed for time, lazy, or limited by technologies, budgets, etc. – bypass this best practice and send emails with abandon – wrong message/offer, etc. – and, hence, wrong response: opt-out meshugas.   (A direct marketer, by contrast, would never do this…the cost of printing, handling, and postage these days is just too great. Email is cheap and, so, has promulgated a lot of bad habits.)

Opting Off… (Library of Congress)

The message here – in case it’s not apparent – is that marketers with bad habits CANNOT expect (or fault) technology for problems they themselves create.

Most email delivery services (including packaged software and especially systems designed for the SMB market) are “non-intuitive” vehicles.  While they have lots of capabilities built in, they’re not intelligent to a degree that allows them to know whether the instructions they’re being given are correct.

They’re like trains carrying passengers, dependent on a conductor for direction, speed, and stops along the way to allow customers to disembark, etc.  IF the conductor (marketer) insists on loading everyone standing on the platform and taking them to wherever the train is going, there will be lots of people clamoring to get off. Others may stay just to see where the ride ends (or because staying on has benefits that getting off doesn’t…and some marketers count on this.) In the email world, conductors who don’t open the doors when customers want to get off are called spammers.  And there are “transportation police” at both the Federal and State levels who have a responsibility to stop them and enforce steep fines and penalties for not following the rules.

These same rules – commonly referred to as The CAN-SPAM Act – also dictate what email service/software providers must do when someone requests to opt out.  The Act says unequivocally that “your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future.” And it says that such notice must be “easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand.”  It also says, “You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you.” (Ed. Note: This latter bit appears to be newly-added. It used to be in or out, no qualifiers.)

Some homegrown emailers have Internet-based menus in place.  But such landing pages require constant monitoring and coding, in most cases.  And for many marketers, and for email service providers, this is a non-trivial task – especially in the SMB market.  So, what’s the recourse?  A ‘blanket’ opt-out policy that does equal disservice to the marketer and to the email recipient, opting out everyone of everything. It’s perfectly no-win/no-win.

The message here – not much different from above – is that marketers need to stick to good direct marketing basics and, again, not expect (or fault) technology for problems they themselves create.

We’d love to hear your opinions and ideas on how to make this simpler for email marketers — without abridging the law, of course ;-)

Related Posts:


Leave a Reply