Jun 5, 2007

Email Marketing Mistake: The Old Address Book Dump

A very nice web designer from a small town in North Carolina sent out a promotional email campaign for her client, a local beauty salon. It invited recipients to "come in and get a manicure" at a discount. It was her client’s first email campaign.

Immediately after she sent her campaign, we got an email from a very, very angry man about how "this woman is using MailChimp to spam me." Hmm, it is a little weird for a man to be getting an email to come in for a manicure.

I checked out the man’s email address, and noticed the domain was for an ISP located in the same small town as the sender.

That’s too much of a coincidence to be spam, but I suspended her account temporarily (just to be safe) and investigated…

I asked him, "any chance your wife signed up for this newsletter?"

Nope. No wife. No kids. And nobody who would ever have access to his computer. "She obviously purchased an email list from somewhere," he tells me.

Now, if some local plumber sends an email to 3,000,000 recipients, that idiot bought a list. But this woman sent to a couple dozen people, with no other complaints. Nothing out of line for a local salon. Hmm.

He also tells me that his email address has been dormant for years, and he was shocked to even be receiving any messages to it. Hmm. Did she scrape the address from some old website? Did she buy an old list, or get some list from the local Chamber of Commerce (another very common source of spam complaints)?

I sent the woman some questions about her client’s list. She was mortified about being accused as a spammer, and went to her client to find out what was going on.

The client had absolutely no idea why she was being accused of spamming. "It was only sent to my clients" she says.

After hours and hours of back-and-forth emails and phone conversations with the sender, her client and the complainer, we finally figured it out. The client simply dumped her entire Outlook Address book and imported it into her email list. She figured the only people in her address book were her clients, since that was her "office computer."

But the complainer wasn’t a client. So how did he end up in her address book?

Turns out he used to be the tech support admin for her ISP, way back before they were bought out by a bigger ISP (hence the old, dormant email address that he hasn’t used in years).

We resolved the issue, and the complainer, now an admin at a much larger ISP, thanked us for taking his complaint so seriously. If this were handled differently, or if he wasn’t so patient, he would have had the power to blacklist the sender (and MailChimp) at his ISP. Whew.

Time Wasted: One day

Lesson Learned:
Don’t just dump your entire address book into your email subscriber list, for Pete’s sake. You’re bound to have a handful of email addresses from your ISP, tech
support, Amazon sales, all the free trials you’ve ever signed up for,
etc. If you don’t sit down and really weed through that address book to remove these other email addresses, you’ll inevitably get reported for spamming.