Apr 9, 2008

Spam Complaints – Your Own Focus Group

There’s an interesting post over at the Word To The Wise blog about the "Report Spam" button.

Apparently, some marketing folks (Q Interactive and MarketingSherpa) ran a survey that suggests the button is meaningless now. That’s because too many people click "Report Spam" when all they really want to do is unsubscribe.

This statement from Laura Atkins is what I found most interesting (which I’ve summarized in a very unprofessional way below):

"I think this is a demonstration of the disconnect between traditional marketing (telemarketing and direct mail especially) and email marketing. In traditional marketing…recipients do not have an easy way to send negative feedback…In email marketing, however…they have a way to communicate back to the marketer that they do not have in other forms of marketing."

There’s definitely a "disconnect." Enlightened marketers know how to treat email. Ignorant markters who just treat email as "cheap direct marketing" are ruining email for all of us, and need to have their computers taken away from them.

As co-founder and abuse desk admin at MailChimp, I see this disconnect all the time from old school traditional marketers. Whenever I have to investigate a user’s account for too many spam complaints (generally, more than 1 per thousand recipients) or way too many bounces, I hover my finger over to the "SHUT ACCOUNT DOWN" button whenever I hear the following "traditional marketing" excuses:

  • Dude, I get tons of junk mail in my mailbox every day. What’s the difference with emai (click)
  • Oh c’mon, everybody knows when they drop their business card into a fishbowl they’re gonna get (click)
  • Perfectly legit list, man. We got it from the local Chamber of Comm— (click)
  • But I bought that list from a really expensi— (click click click click)

All of the above are great ways to send traditional, offline marketing. But not mass email. Ignorant marketers just don’t get that. But this is a no-brainer for marketers who actually have a clue about email.

Remove Tin Foil Hat. Step Away From The Computer.

Even the best email marketers get 1 or 2 abuse complaints (and that’s why ISPs have pretty reasonable thresholds). But good marketers look at those complaints as "feedback" (by the way, ISPs use the term "Feedback Loops" when they refer to those report spam buttons).

They don’t think it’s some kind of conspiracy to get their companies blacklisted, and they don’t think the ISPs and spamcops are "out to get them." Trust me, they probably don’t even know you exist. If one of your campaigns suddenly gets a lot of complaints, this is great user feedback that something’s wrong with your marketing. Don’t you wish you could get that kind of instant feedback from traditional direct marketing?

If you’re getting too many feedback loop complaints, don’t cry about it and demand that ISPs change their ways. Take a long hard look at your email marketing opt-in process. You’re probably sending too much email, or unexpected email, or you’re not managing your lists properly,  or some combination of the above.


Obsessed with Open Rates? Stop it; Focus on Feedback Loops