There’s been another spike in unwanted emails in my inbox lately. The increase goes in cycles. I’m not sure if it’s because certain lists of email addresses are issued by one party or another at various times of year, or a bunch of companies just have coincidental timing, but my frequency of having to unsubscribe from new cold email newsletter sends has increased yet again.
It’s time to penalize cold emails.
Let’s get a couple of things clear:
- Sending someone an email or adding them to your newsletter or customer list without their permission is shitty, but not a violation of the CAN SPAM Act. So long as you have an opportunity for them to opt out and follow all the other CAN SPAM Act guidelines, you’re not doing anything wrong. But you are being what amounts to an asshole.
- In my opinion, if you send an email to someone who might have a use for your product or service, it’s not necessarily spam, but it can certainly be unwanted, which a lot of people call spam by default.
With that in mind, let’s look at the unsubscribe feedback question that follows a typical unsubscribe action in MailChimp, a popular email service provider:
There are several options for me (or your customers) to choose. If they feel the email is completely unwarranted, interruptive or irrelevant, they can say “The emails are spam and should be reported.” If your email recipients choose this often enough, you can be put on blacklists and be penalized by your email service provider.
The other choices are pretty straight forward and don’t really come with much consequence in my experience. But one certainly should.
Let’s penalize cold emails.
If a recipient chooses, “I never signed up for this mailing list,” I think MailChimp and other email providers should penalize the sender, too. Maybe not with the voracity they penalize under the “this is spam” response, but if you are cold emailing (sending emails to people without them signing up), then you are at least lacking respect for their time and choice to not be bothered.
Granted, as a marketer, this might hurt efforts to acquire new customers. But I think the challenge is on the brands and agencies that formulate strategies to acquire customers to give people a reason to want our emails.
Buying lists is not illegal, but it’s sketchy. Adding people to your email list without their choosing to be added is not illegal either, but it’s also sketchy.
And sketchy marketing should not be rewarded. It should be penalized.
Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? The comments are yours.
Oh, and I’m not just whining. In case you didn’t know, I co-authored a nice book about email marketing you should check out!