What Exactly are the Rules for Collecting Emails? //php get_posflags()?>
Posted on | April 12, 2010
Written by | admin
Retail stores have the often difficult task of trying to collect email addresses from their customers (or potential customers) so that the store can alert them of sales, tastings, and other special events but at what point does that hunger for emails cross a line?
I was recently in a situation where I started following an entity on Twitter and within an hour, had received a newsletter from them that was sent to my personal email (available through my personal blog). It seemed to me that after I started following them, they had clicked the link on my Twitter page, got over to my blog, and copied my email address from my Contact page to add to their newsletter list. This got me thinking. Does following someone on Twitter make it okay for them to sign me up for their email newsletter?
While it is true that my email is published on my blog so that people can email me, I’m not sure where the line of trust ends and iffy behavior begins. Personally, I didn’t like the approach at all and unsubscribed from their email newsletters (which I never subscribed to in the first place) immediately and I also unfollowed them on Twitter. I didn’t take too kindly to the liberties taken by the Twitter user and I wouldn’t be surprised if others felt the same.
The need and desire for collecting more email addresses is clear,the bigger the email list, the more people you reach with your promotions. However, if you resort to grabbing emails from people who haven’t willingly signed up or end up buying emails from some source, you may not be benefiting as much as you’d like. These customers probably haven’t ever been to your site and you might not even be targeting the correct group. It’s hard to know the quality of what you’re getting when you obtain emails this way.
It takes longer and is more work getting emails the right way but I do think there’s a lot of value in that. Word of mouth, social media marketing, in store events, and even the new customer who found your site through a product feed or search can all offer valid avenues to add to your email list and customer base. The quality of the emails obtained that way would be better simply because the person is already more engaged than anyone in a bought email list or taken from a different online source.
Even worse than that, though, is risking that your emails get marked as spam. The server you are sending mail from could get a bad reputation for sending to customers that don’t like getting your emails, and that could cause issues beyond just not reaching a few people. If a customer receives your newsletter and marks it as spam from their Yahoo/Hotmail/Gmail address, those mail hosts take notice of where the newsletter is coming from and could blacklist the server, meaning that your newsletters may not get to more than just that one customer. You might even cause issues for others that are using your mail server and you could quickly become quite unpopular or even removed from the mail server entirely for causing issues for everyone.
By practicing cleaner email collection tactics, you can likely prevent that from happening. The newsletter I received was promptly unsubscribed from and not marked as spam, but that’s not to say that no one would mark it as spam. It’s the risk that’s being taken when the emails from your list are obtained questionably.
There is a better way to engage these customers and get them to go to your site, participate, and voluntarily provide you with their email address if they like what they see. My personal incident happened on Twitter, where it super easy to drop someone a line, make a connection, suggest a wine or a free tasting, and create a new customer. If you have the opportunity to interact, take it. Don’t skip that step and take their email. I will probably never be a customer of that entity because of this event but if they had approached it in a different way, they could have done the exact opposite and gained a solid, repeat customer.