Push Comes to Shove

    August 19, 2005

MarketingSherpa has a study that newsletter open rates have dropped 10% in the past year, but I almost didn’t get the message because I hardly ever read those emails anymore… which sort of explains why my company didn’t make it into this year’s SEM Buyer’s Guide (Paid Search Version), in case you’re wondering why Page Zero Media doesn’t show up in Sherpa’s guide to paid search management firms.

MarketingSherpa’s study

I didn’t get the emails, and no one bothered to call to remind me to apply for inclusion. I was told I could get into next year’s guide. Meanwhile I still receive bulk emails from their affiliate manager asking me to promote the guide we’re not in, so that my readers can buy consulting services from a competitor. Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?

I’m starting to think that the root of all evil may be impersonal emails when a phone call would be preferable. (Mea culpa on this front, too, no question there!)

One thought: mailers who send 7 or 8 different newsletters to their customers are a huge part of the problem. With Sherpa, which publishes many newsletters, it’s totally voluntary to join so many different ones, but as a recipient, it is pretty much a case of biting off more than you can chew. At signup time, it seems that your eyes can be bigger than your stomach. One solution: the publisher who recognizes this problem could focus a bit more on fewer newsletters.

I noticed something similar with MediaPost’s stable of at least a half-dozen daily newsletters. Only in that case, by registering once, I got in for all six of these things. Six emails every couple of days from a single content outfit? Not in this day and age! I’ve unsubscribed from half, and am rarely reading the rest. Stuff like this just makes it harder for everyone else to get their email read.

Let’s go back to the Godin-coined principles of permission-based messaging: the communications must be anticipated, personal, and relevant. Frankly, even semi-anticipated and relevant will work. In the past three days, of all the unwanted emails I received, one permission-based one I actually read was a wine review column by Natalie McLean (Nat Decants). It’s not only semi-anticipated and relevant, it’s timely. It tells you when new “Vintages” releases will be available in the government-owned liquor stores (this Saturday in this case), and lists some great deals and provides tasting notes on releases that probably won’t be around long. I actually paid attention to that one. Not only is this semi-anticipated and relevant, but it’s personal in the sense that it’s related to a hobby — it’s fun.

In the business world, there are just so many emails that we “should” or “must” (rather than want to) read, we just leave them sitting in the pile.

Most emailers have lost all sense of what permission-based marketing is supposed to do. Excite and delight.

On another note: too many blogs to read? I’ve got the answer! For the next week at least, posting will be nonexistent as I take time out to focus on long-term strategy and duck-watching.

Andrew Goodman is Principal of Page Zero Media, a marketing consultancy which focuses on maximizing clients’ paid search marketing campaigns.

In 1999 Andrew co-founded Traffick.com, an acclaimed “guide to portals” which foresaw the rise of trends such as paid search and semantic analysis.