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

Zulu grows its team and makes a slate of promotions

A director of interactive production for Zulubot is among dozens of new faces and roles at the agency, in response to recent wins.
Zulu Alpha Kilo_New Zuligans

Toronto indie shop Zulu Alpha Kilo had made several new hires and promotions on the heels of new business and also organic growth from existing clients.

Zulu could not officially announce the account wins at this time.

However, it can report that Ece Inan, most recently at Toronto design and tech shop Array of Stars, has been named the agency’s new director of interactive production for Zulubot, the agency’s production arm. In the new role, Inan will lead AR, VR, voice and other digital innovation projects.

Also on the production side, James Graham, who has spent the last 17 years with Grip, has joined the agency as its studio director.

Zulu has also made numerous additions on the client services side, led by Michael Brathwaite, also from Grip, as account director.

It’s also announced a spate of new account supervisors, including Hayley Blackmore (from G Adventures), Risa Kastelic (from BT/A), Kara Oddi (also from BT/A), Emily Anzarouth (also from Grip), Chris Rosario (from FCB/Six) and Sarah Shiff (from Rethink).

In addition to the new hires (pictured above), the agency has also announced several promotions: Alyssa Guttman moves from account director to group account director, while Nina Bhayana, Michelle Fournier, Jenn Gaidola-Sobral and Erin McManus have all been promoted to account director, and Haley Holm to account supervisor. On the strategy team, strategists Carly Miller and Spencer MacEachern have both been promoted to strategy director, while Shaunagh Farrelly, who has been with Zulu for two years in a client service role, moves into a new role as a digital strategist.

In December, the shop also announced that Stephanie Yung would be returning to the agency after a stint in New York as its head of design. Recent wins the agency has been able to announce including work as AOR for the Ottawa Senators, as well as a new arrangement with existing client Consonant Skincare, setting up an in-house team to support growth after taking an equity stake in the company.

Zulu president Mike Sutton says it’s wonderful, in a new year, to welcome new faces and energy to the team and says the agency is fortunate to have had so many people across the agency step up to support its clients.

“Simply put, they were rock stars, and the promotions are very well deserved,” Sutton says.