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Kiss Those Thunder Thighs Goodbye!
Jeff Pasternack
M@ke Ton$ of D011ar$ Fa$t!!!
I've Been Soooo Naughty….
Size DOES matter!
Kiss Those Thunder Thighs Goodbye! HG124xY

These and other exciting subject lines grace our inboxes each and every day. Products with names such as Spam Killer, I Hate Spam and many other similarly titled products grace the pages of the product review sections inside venerable computer magazines. In fact, listening to the critics, you'd think that the only email you should receive is that which you ask for, otherwise known as opt-in.

I'm not going to debate the opt-in/opt-out issue. Not a week goes by where I don't get something of interest from the postman, such as a discount coupon from a carpet cleaner. I'd be more forgiving of spam if I felt like I knew that there was a chance that there'd be something of reasonable value in it. While it is difficult to argue the value of cheaper insurance, lower mortgage rates, larger breasts and longer penises, I find it hard to believe that companies other than those with these services aren't emailing their special offers to potential customers.

Take a step back from the legitimacy of email marketing for a moment and consider that radio, newspapers and television serve a dual purpose. Consumers use these mediums to access entertainment and information. The business community (i.e. consumers with the other hat on) finds these mediums to be effective vehicles for delivering business propaganda. As with most mediums, the content comes first and with sufficient public interest, advertisers move in.

Postal mail, telephones and email are different than newspaper, radio and television. They are considered personal technologies. Granted, telephones and postal mail have a substantially longer history than email, but the adoption of phones and postal mail by businesses as a means to communicate to potential consumers was a no-brainer decision: point-to-point communication with prospects. The phone rings, you answer it. Caller ID helps you filter it out, as do privacy policies from your banks, insurers and brokers. The new Do Not Call list will help a bit, but not as much as one might think. Similarly, mail comes to your mailbox and you at least view it before tossing it. If it looks interesting, you thumb through it. The opt-out list from the Direct Marketing Association helps reduce postal mail and sales calls quite a bit, but not entirely.

So why should email be any different? Sure, the email-using community was rocked on May 3, 1978, when Gary Thuerk from DEC sent out an email that is now labeled as "The First Spam." You can call your banks, insurers, credit card companies, and brokers and tell them not to share your information. Similar to caller ID, you can deploy one of the spam blockers or opt-out of messages sent by companies with whom you do business. But you'll still receive unwanted email: its no different than getting postal mail that is addressed to Recipient. The reason you receive more email is because it costs a pittance to send.

Spam battles are having an effect on the way organizations handle email marketing. For example, associations generate non-dues revenue (sometimes referred to as "money" by the rest of us) by selling lists of members and conference attendees. A company seeking to sell products or services to that list will send out email and postal mail and by so doing, will earn revenue which it will invariably spend on association sponsorship and booth space. In turn, this keeps the association afloat and funds its member services activities. So it's a nice cycle…maybe. Depends on your viewpoint, right? I don't know if associations should be in the business of selling their most important asset: member data. I don't know if they shouldn't be doing it, either. But obviously it works for the association and surrounding business community. Members are also probably well served as they receive information about products and services related to their business. Isn't that valuable? I mean, who in America doesn't go through life learning about new products and services to some degree because of advertising? And isn't it better if the advertising is targeted to you?

I think the problem with unwanted email is that there's a paucity of targeting: targeting costs money. Sure, you can buy a list of email addresses. You can also buy an email program that will do name-spamming…you know, sends to popular names at a particular domain. You can write a program that will scour Usenet newsgroups or Web sites and pluck out email addresses from the pages. So tell me…is male or female? 25 or 61 years old? $25k income or $250k income? Do you care? So buy 10,000 of those addresses for $100 and mail away, what the heck? Its only $100 and if 5 people buy your weight-loss product, you've more than covered the cost and if you piss people off, no big deal, they weren't going to buy anyway. That unsubscribe link at the bottom? Just confirms that the email address was valid and you'll hit them again.

Now look at the flip side. You buy a list from the Association of Good Doctors. You know a lot about these people: high income, reasonably educated, company names and locations. By having this list, you can do all sorts of targeting based on region, specialty, etc. That list might cost $300 for 1000 records. You're going to offer a targeted product or service to a targeted audience that is reasonably likely to have an interest in your offering. The question businesses are asking is this: will my target audience become upset and not buy from us?

My bet is that, on the whole, businesses will not harm their reputation by sending targeted emails. Where businesses need to succeed is in truly honoring the unsubscribe request. The best way to do this is to divide your content into subsets: newsletters, product announcements, discounts, etc…By dividing it up, when folks do unsubscribe, you can inform them that they have unsubscribed from this one list and that they may still be on other lists. You could give them the option to unsubscribe from all lists, or just one, as you see fit. The important thing is to give the option and to honor the request.

In the next issue I'll be reviewing some nifty tools that will assist you in planning, executing, managing and evaluating your email marketing campaigns. Until then, if you need to lose any weight, want to help Prince Abunaji Igeh remove $47 million dollars in gold from Nigeria in exchange for 35 percent or you want lower insurance and mortgage costs, drop me a line. Have I got a deal for you!

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at