Why the current opt-in e-mail model won’t work

Opt-in e-mail. You get to select from a wide range of lists, in specific-interest categories, and you're assured that "100% of the people on these lists have asked to receive targeted e-mail messages from mailers like you."...

Opt-in e-mail. You get to select from a wide range of lists, in specific-interest categories, and you’re assured that "100% of the people on these lists have asked to receive targeted e-mail messages from mailers like you."

It sounds great. But is it?

Turns out there are three major problems – and a bunch of minor ones – with the way some current opt-in e-mail list managers are operating.

The first is that when opt-in e-mail addresses are sold or rented there is a "disconnect" between where consumers left their addresses and the third-party marketer who ultimately sends them an e-mail.

Here’s an example – you’re surfing on a financial services site that invites you to leave your e-mail behind to receive more targeted information. Sounds reasonable, so you leave your address. Two weeks later, you receive e-mails from a deluge of third-party financial services marketers with whom you have absolutely no relationship. By this time, you’ve forgotten with which company you originally left your e-mail, so you’re convinced you’re being spammed – even though you "opted-in."

Most opt-in e-mail marketers would tell you there’s no difference between this and direct mail. But there is. For the most part, direct mail is not so "in-your-face". And the Web culture thing – you know, "If I want it I’ll go get it" – is ingrained and not likely to change.

The second major problem lies with "tag-along prospecting". That’s where you receive an e-newsletter that you have asked for and at the bottom of the newsletter are a bunch of related Web sites and a few lines of text. Neat. But the point of your signing up for the e-mail newsletter in the first place was to receive the newsletter. Period. You may or may not make time to visit the related Web sites – that is, if you make it to the bottom of the newsletter in the first place.

When marketers prospect via e-mail, they want their message to be front and centre (unless they’re placing banner ads to build some name recognition). Ride-alongs have a place, but they tend to generate very low response.

The third major problem with the way opt-in e-mail programs are being run today is that the marketer’s promotional messages are not being vetted by anybody who cares about the offline relationship with the recipients. The reason why the direct mail list rental business has remained credible for so long is because the owners of the lists have a genuine relationship with the people on their lists. The publishers of Canadian Quilting Magazine are not going to allow any direct mail to reach their readers unless that mail is of interest to their readers. List managers vet mailers by reviewing sample mail pieces and the final decision always rests with the list owner.

The companies that are assembling opt-in e-mail lists are doing so for the sole purpose of selling the names to make money. They may not care what kind of message is being sent. Oh, some will take the high road and tell you that they give their "members" opportunities to unsubscribe at any time. But at the same time, they’ll rope people in to leaving their e-mail addresses by offering them free stuff. The free stuff usually means visiting another Web site, where the person, of course, needs to leave their name, address and e-mail.

All this ranting doesn’t mean that opt-in e-mail is not a good thing. In fact, it can be a great thing if it’s done properly.

So what’s the formula for success? Easy. The formula for success is to build on the already successful list-marketing model.

Picture this. You subscribe to Canadian Quilting Magazine. As part of your communication with the magazine you reveal your e-mail address and you tell them it is OK to communicate with you in this way.

Now, if you were to suddenly get e-mails from quilting-related marketers you didn’t know, you might be a bit miffed and assume you were being spammed (remember the in-your-face, Web culture thing?)

However, if Canadian Quilting Magazine were to send you an e-mail that specifically pointed you toward a Web page and told you the editors thought you might be interested in what the site had to offer – that’s a different story. Here’s why: Your relationship with the magazine has not been compromised.

So, is everybody happy? Let’s review the players.

The client submits their Web page URL to the e-mail list manager who vets it through the list owner. If approved, the client gets their Web page endorsed by the list owner. Yup, the client is happy because their message is being delivered to people who have shown a true affinity for the category.

The e-mail list owner approves only those Web pages that would potentially be of interest to their most important asset – their customers. Plus they can earn revenue for delivering a targeted message. Yup, they’re happy too.

The e-mail recipient receives targeted information from the same company to which he or she has given permission to send e-mails. The recipient also receives an opportunity to opt out of receiving any further recommendations. So yeah, they’re happy too.

The key to ensuring the success of e-mail prospecting is to be completely overt. No hiding behind surveys and contests. No piggybacking on newsletters. If current e-mail marketing practices continue, consumers are going to rebel. And don’t forget – the customer is in control. Changing an e-mail address is as easy as changing your mind.

Don Lange is senior vice-president of the Cornerstone Group of Companies. Cornerstone is one of Canada’s leading suppliers of direct response goods and services. Cornerstone recently announced the launch of Cornerstone Web Media dedicated to prospecting on the Internet and opt-in e-mail list management.

Also in this report:

- The next generation of Net tools: Permission-based e-mail, online behaviour profiling, customized content delivery on the rise p.D12

- System links agents, data warehouse: Pivotal combines technologies required to build successful e-relationships p.D17

- Direct Tech p.D18

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.