Beware these 3 suggestions from management

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Although the election is over, we’re still left with a financial mess—one that might prompt suggestions for less-than-smart changes to your e-mail marketing program. Such changes, said Jordan Ayan, CEO of e-mail service provider SubscriberMail, have the potential to maim your program by angering or disenfranchising loyal subscribers.

What can you do? While you don’t want to tell your boss or the CFO “no” outright, there are strategies you can use to keep your program in the black and keep subscribers coming back. Ayan laid out three of the most common questionable suggestions he’s been hearing about as well as ways you can diffuse them and turn them into wins for your e-mail marketing program.

1) We need to change our e-mail volume. With shrinking budgets and fewer sales, those unfamiliar with how e-mail marketing works may ask you to increase your e-mail volume to spur new sales or stop specific programs completely to save on sending and development costs. Both are bad ideas, Ayan said.

“You’ve built the relationship based on a certain set of assumptions. If all of a sudden, you start inundating subscribers with large numbers of messages, you’re changing the relationship without permission, he said. “If you’re not adding to the value, [subscribers] are going to either unsubscribe or just stop reading.” Likewise, if you stop marketing, you’re losing out on potential opportunities. Customers or prospects may even wonder if you’re going out of business or have become less reliable.

Your job will be to communicate this to whoever is asking you to change e-mail volume. One good way to do this is to define how much each customer is worth to your company over their lifetime. The Email Experience Council has an online tool ( you can try out to measure a campaign’s ROI. Once you have that number, you can quantify exactly how much it would affect the bottom line if you lost even one subscriber.

2) Let’s expand our list by buying or renting someone else’s list. You’ve heard it over and over: Don’t buy or rent lists. You may even be bound to this unofficial rule of e-mail marketing because certain ESPs won’t deliver mail sent to rented lists. However, if you explain the reasons that list rental is a poor choice—higher level of spam complaints, the possibility of hitting spam traps, possible lack of relevance—and your boss still wants to grow your list instantly, you can mitigate your risk by purchasing wisely.

“Rent a list from an association or a publication that is willing to send out your message for you,” Ayan said. “The mailing coming from that third party identifies itself as coming from the association on your behalf.” The recipient is used to getting messages from that trusted source, so he or she won’t think you’re sending spam. And if you are approached to buy a list outright, run away fast, Ayan said. “If anyone owns a list of any value, they would not want to take that list and put it in your hands completely,” he said.

3) Recipients signed up for one list—let’s send them e-mails targeted at other lists, too. If your company has multiple lists segmented by business unit or product, it might be tempting to send someone on list A, for example, newsletters intended for people on list B. But you shouldn’t, Ayan said. “You have a group of people who trusted you and gave you permission to send a message about something,and they want to hear about that something,” he said. “But if you send me something I didn’t ask for, you’ve totally blown my trust.”

A better suggestion is to use your e-mails to advertise other lists, placing a “click here to subscribe” at the bottom of the message. You can also ask subscribers to revisit their preferences. Once they arrive at the preference center, call attention to lists you think they might like. No matter which strategy you use, make sure you test its effect. “You need to see if asking people to opt in to other lists changes the original e-mail’s performance,” Ayan said.

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