Someplace, my name is on a direct mail list. Given the junk mail I get, I’d bet that list has been sold over and over again. I’d always been a very poor return on investment for these mailers but then one day – I actually opened a credit card offer letter that I had been getting at least once a week in my physical mailbox. And not only did I open the letter, but I went online and filled out the application.
So, this is proof that shotgun mailings to complete strangers can work, yes? Well… yes, and no. And here’s why.
There are certain advertisers who advertise in so many places, so often, that their advertising becomes wallpaper. You don’t even see it… until one day you need the product or service. Imagine this: You drive to work and other places every day. You pass a billboard for an automotive repair shop. They send you postcards; they advertise on TV, they sponsor a food drive. All wallpaper, until the day your brakes begin to squeal. Suddenly the postcard offering a discount on a tune-up and a brake special is interesting and important, and you read it.
That’s mass marketing in the physical world. There is a misconception that email marketing relying on purchased lists (and an all-or-nothing blast approach) can be just as effective. Sorry! It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. The email marketing world has some unique deliverability challenges in a shotgun approach. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
Challenge 1: Buying a list? Good luck with that.
Even if a high quality email list existed (valid names of real people genuinely interested in your product or service) and was available for sale, it would become oversold in no time, meaning its members would be bombarded with unlimited messages. You probably have a better chance at winning the lottery than finding a valuable email list that’s for sale. (At least the lottery jackpot is real.)
And, are you mailing into Canada? You probably already know, but in case you don’t – purchased lists have been illegal in Canada since its anti-spam law (CASL) came into force on July 1, 2014. And, are you mailing into Europe? Make sure you know how to comply with the laws of all countries you mail into.
Challenge 2: Assuming that an email platform will clean your lists.
Some marketers think when they send to an email list through an email service provider, the bounces, spam complaints, and unsubscribes that show up are magically cleansed from their list. Not so. Not only will these reports not clean the lists for you, they will probably expedite the process of having your account suspended by your email platform provider. When your email sends pile up bad addresses, it makes that ESP look spammy and could affect all their other clients. They won’t thank you.
Challenge 3: Achieve high deliverability with a good reputation.
OK, you got your lists cleaned and validated; good for you! All the spam traps and invalid addresses have been removed and the lists are finally ready to go. Sadly, that’s only the beginning of the end. When you send out your shotgun message:
- First of all, the list cleaning and validation companies (some do both) can’t catch every soft and hard bounce. The ones they were not able to catch will start to snag.
- Secondly, of those that are being delivered, a close look will show you that way more than 0.1% of the messages are turning into spam complaints (0.1% is considered by most ESPs and ISPs a reasonable threshold for abuse complaints). Why? Because they don’t know who you are, and they weren’t expecting an email from you, and you’ve interrupted their day. Rising spam complaints is known to be one of the biggest causes of deliverability problems.
- Thirdly, you will start to notice a low average open rate and a much lower click-to-open ratio, both of which testify to the irrelevance of your message to those recipients.
- Lastly, (even though we could go on and on), only a very small percentage of your messages will eventually make to the inboxes despite successful delivery. Due to the lack of engagement, your email does not look like it is generally wanted.
And by this point, your IP address is probably already all over the blacklists and block lists. What’s a marketer to do?
Consider your email list as king.
And know it is very, very different from the list you use for real-world mail, so you have to treat it with more care. You might get away with a shotgun blast in the physical world; the US Post Office delivers everything you send without judging whether it’s junk mail or not. The Internet Service Providers operate differently, actively patrolling email to screen out what they deem as undesirable.
Some of this has to do with money. In the physical world, the sender pays, the recipient does not. In the email world, the recipient pays the ISP for delivery, so they are entitled to service, and part of that service is protecting them from junk mailers. Shotgun mailing makes your messages look like junk.
Feed your list well.
Take the time and trouble to build a list of people who want to hear from you. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it costs more – initially. But in the long run, it’s the only way to build an engaged, loyal customer base, and that’s the most cost-effective marketing you will ever have. From there, everything else just falls into line.
Even the best email campaigns fail if they don’t reach the inbox. Learn the best practices for how to improve your email deliverability with our eBook.