Saturday, October 07, 2017


I got a rather odd email this morning, one that is unique in my experience, from a Bay Area organization whose mailing list I've been on for a long time. Years, not sure how many.

Here's the text of the email:
We're tuning up for the new season and we noticed that you haven't opened one of our emails in several months.

We understand that everyone needs a break sometimes, and that you probably get a symphony of emails, so we've made it easier for you by taking you off of our email list. 

We would love to welcome you back if you'd like to continue hearing about our phenomenal concerts, performers, educational resources, and music. Just click here to resubscribe:

They must consider the information they will get about people who re-up to be more important than the downsides. But this isn't something I would do, for these reasons.

1. Every email sent by Constant Contact or Mail Chimp or other mailing list management software has an unsubscribe link. Presumably, people who really don't want to receive the emails will click that link.

2. It costs the sender little or nothing to send the email. I admit, I have not checked to see what the paid versions of mailing list software cost, so maybe I am wrong about this.

3. It definitely costs the recipient nothing to receive; email providers don't have quotas on mail you receive, though they may have storage fees.

4. Honestly, they really don't know why someone isn't reading their marketing emails. If the situation is that a family member is ill, or someone has died, or the person is traveling the world and can't attend concerts in the Bay Area, well, throwing them off the mailing list is a big mistake. The mind-reading, we-know-better-than-you-do aspect of this is mildly disturbing.

5. Describing your own concerts as phenomenal: quote a critic or it's not true. I would find complimentary quotes much more persuasive than self-description.

6. Possibly most importantly, does it make sense to call attention to the fact that these emails phone home? I know perfectly well about this function, and even I got that creepy "YOU ARE WATCHING ME" feeling from receiving this email. It is possible that most of the other recipients of this morning's mail don't know that the emails they receive send status back to the sender.

7. If you're sending email like this, an org might as well ask why its emails aren't being read, the equivalent of the question you get when you actively unsubscribe. Wouldn't that be useful to know?

I'm actually somewhat surprised to have received this particular email, because I've read plenty of emails from the org in the last year - but those were probably all press releases. I think it's a while since I attended one of their concerts, alas, but one does have to make choices. 

I don't think I'd do an auto-purge of this type myself; it seems like a gamble to get a response, or attention, or something, from your potential audience. I don't remove people from my dojo's mailing list because I send email to it only three or four times a year, and I figure people can unsubscribe if they don't want the mail - and they do, too: I get three to five unsubscribes annually. (Okay, if I knew someone had died.....)

So, in short, this seems like a gamble and not necessarily one that will pay off. Anyone else have thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I used to be subscribed to America's Test Kitchen's emails and at one point after not opening any for a few months, I got that defensive email, Look, since you're clearly not interested, we'll remove you from the list, but feel free to resubscribe. I was stunned. I think I unsubscribed myself right there and then.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I haven't decided what to do with Organization X, for a number of reasons. I suspect that, given the choice, they wouldn't have sent it to someone who has a megaphone, however small mine is, so I presume someone just sent it to everyone who hasn't opened their email in X weeks or months.

Tod Brody said...

As the proprietor of an email list for a Bay Area arts organization, I agree with you -- would never do this. As long as the opt-out is clearly available, there's just no profit, for all the reasons you cite, for ever making someone opt back in. As you suggest, the cost per address emailed to is nominal -- an org would have to dump a great many subscribers before seeing cost savings that would amount to much. I'd rather spend the energy on crafting better emails, and thinking up more enticing subject lines. Then the chips will fall where they may. We're aware that some folks read everything we send out, some read nothing, and some read occasionally. It's a mass-marketing tool, emphasis on the mass, not on any individual subscriber.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you, Tod; as always, love to read your very-well-informed views on this kind of organizational issue.