A word that flashes boldly in my mind when people talk about email marketing is SPAM.
What is spam? This is what Wikipedia has to say:
“Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media.
"Spamming remains economically viable because advertisers have no operating costs beyond the management of their mailing lists, and it is difficult to hold senders accountable for their mass mailings. Because the barrier to entry is so low, spammers are numerous, and the volume of unsolicited mail has become very high. In the year 2011, the estimated figure for spam messages is around seven trillion. The costs, such as lost productivity and fraud, are borne by the public and by Internet service providers, which have been forced to add extra capacity to cope with the deluge. Spamming has been the subject of legislation in many jurisdictions.”
Email spam is irritating. And it’s expensive, but not for those who think they’re being clever by sending it. If the senders had to meet the true cost, I believe that this practice would largely stop overnight.
However spam dispensers may well argue that what they send is “targeted”, probably at their long-suffering customers and prospects who have to delete it. They probably also have some statistics that “prove” to their bosses that this practice is good value in terms of cost of spam versus sales made. Like its predecessor, the dreaded unsolicited fax that ate toner and paper, the cost of email spam is borne by those who receive it. I believe that this isn’t marketing but theft.
The cost of dealing with this onslaught is vast, over US$20 billion in the US alone, and “7 trillon” globally, presumably US dollars, according to Wikipedia. I understand that more spam is sent each day than proper email. In the early days of email spam, spam filters were built to apprehend the stuff. Now the challenge is to find the real email amongst the daily flood of performance enhancing drugs and fake university qualifications.
Much has been written about marketing and it is defined a number of ways by various institutions and organisations that promote its practice.
Having worked in and around marketing for many years, I believe it has two essential elements:
1. Outstanding customer service
2. Constant innovation.
Thinking about those two essential elements I believe that marketing practitioners need to stop and ask hard questions about their attraction to spam.
How can be filling the world’s in-boxes with unimportant bumf have anything to do with providing outstanding customer service?
“Me Too” is copying others. It has nothing to do with constant innovation and setting your value offering apart from that of others. Aspire to be the copied, rather than a copier.
I believe that the world’s professional marketing associations should be railing against email spam, rather than comparing and contrasting the available tools to their members.