Why Only Desperate Slobs E-Mail Their Whole List

May 10, 2007 11:16 PM  By

(Magilla Marketing) If there is one complaint that comes up repeatedly in discussions with e-mail consultants and service providers, it is that they are all struggling to convince clients not to mail their entire list.

Not only is it unnecessary, it’s not wise.

But many marketers seemingly can’t help themselves. To them, everybody who has ever bought anything from the company is a potential repeat customer. As a result, failing to e-mail them all an offer on a channel where the delivery costs are low is unthinkable.

But while it may not cost much money to send e-mail to nonresponders, it can cost the marketer in other ways. Internet service providers such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL say complaints from consumers is the number-one measure they use to determine whether to block incoming e-mail or divert it into users’ spam folders.

They also turn dormant e-mail addresses into spam traps. As a result, mailing to dormant addresses can be dangerous.

Fortunately, mailing to only portions of an e-mail list doesn’t necessarily mean settling for less revenue, according to Rick Buck, director of ISP relations for e-mail services provider e-Dialog. It simply means being smarter about what one sends to whom.

“People just have this mentality that ‘somebody bought something once, and that means they are going to want to buy something from me again,’” Buck says. He adds that it’s fairly easy to understand who will respond to certain types of offers.

“A lot of direct marketers don’t put [database marketing] science behind what they do” with e-mail, he says. “They know that their revenue goal is X and if they hit their revenue goal that’s great, but when it gets to the end of the quarter and they’re off the mark by a couple percentage points, what do they do? They pull out all the deadwood from their database and say, ‘There’s got to be somebody in there who’s going to buy stuff,’ and they probably have some meager numbers to support that.”

Buck adds: “In the offline world, all that costs you is postage, handling, and production. In the online world not only does it cost you production time, it can also cost you your reputation as a direct marketer and your IP reputation because you’re mailing out to a lot of people who are likely to complain. And the really old names… If they haven’t done anything in 24 months with you, it’s likely the ISPs have recycled those names into spam traps. So not only are they not responding, you’re getting negative points with the ISPs.”

E-mailers can avoid the danger that comes with sloppy mailing and hit their goals at the same time by doing fairly simple segmentation, says Buck. “Before they dig up the deadwood they should do an analysis of their database and divide it into specific segments. ‘Who are the people who spend a lot of money with me? What do they look like? What do they spend their money on? Who are the people who spend some money on me and what do they spend their money on? Who are the people who did something with me once and never did anything again?’ You’ve got gobs of data in your database.”

Given that this sort of data analysis “is not labor intensive,” Buck says that “it is mind-boggling to me that more marketers don’t do it. You’re not necessarily mailing to fewer people, and you’re not necessarily mailing less frequently; you’re simply mailing a lot smarter.”