email marketing pet peeves/WTFs: or, subscribers are dumb

Can’t work up enough heat for the Pit, as this mostly just boggles my mind rather than piss me off.

I run the email marketing for a small non-profit art gallery/performance center. Because I hate spam, I make sure that we follow best practices and I keep our list pristine. No one gets on our list unless they have pro-actively made an effort to do so – they either fill out a form on our website, or fill out a paper form in our brick & mortar storefront. There is NO other way to get on our list; I have even made a point of having the Executive Director point people to one of these signup forms if they request in a casual email/verbal conversation to be added. We keep records on everything. We keep and file the paper sign up sheets. We have electronic records of who signed up, when, and how. On top of all that, every new subscriber gets an automated welcome email the day after they’re put into the database, which welcomes them to our list, and explains, with links, what kinds of emails we send, how often, and how they can change their contact information, change their subscription preferences, or unsubscribe.

A few people unsubscribe from the welcome email. Okay, I suppose they didn’t have spine enough to just say “no thanks” when asked if they’d like to join our mailing list.

However, a few times a year, we’ll get people who write us a note or a nastygram that just makes me wonder… we had one guy last year, who wrote back after receiving his first email all flustered that he was getting email, because (wait for it):

He didn’t realize that signing up for our email list meant that we would send him email. I honestly have no idea what he thought it was for. It says “mailing list” right at the top of every page of the paper signup sheet, and the first thing we ask for is their email address. It’s also standard protocol to ask “would you like to sign up for our email list?” So it’s not like it was unclear what the signup sheet was for.

More recently, we got a nastygram from someone who claimed that he’d never signed up for our list, and we were sending him “too much spam.” I checked our records, and not only found that he’d signed up via the paper form, but he’d been receiving our email without complaint for six months. I unsubscribed him, of course, and sent him a polite email saying that according to our records this is how and when he’d signed up, and sorry if there was a “misunderstanding” about the purpose of the signup sheet. But, come on. Not only did he not remember filling out the form less than a week later when he would have received his welcome email, but it didn’t occur to him to unsubscribe from something he “didn’t want” for six months? :stuck_out_tongue:

About once a month we also get someone clicking on the “this is spam” button, which, btw, files an official complaint with your mail host on us. This is also, typically, people who have been receiving our email (and opening it, and clicking the links) for several months. (My best guess here is that they were too lazy to click on the unsubscribe link provided in the email, and this is the “lazy-man’s unsubscribe.”)

I just wish I knew what was going on inside their heads, as I’m really not following their internal logic. Thoughts?

I used to handle memberships and member payments for some nonprofit organizations before email was common. I kept meticulous records, too, but sometimes I would get an irate phone call telling me the they already paid their dues and why was I sending more notices?

Not once did the error prove to be in my records. The real reason varied from the simple to the sublime – they forgot to mail a check, they told the wife to pay and she forgot, or in one case they confused our organization with another group and paid the wrong one. When the check came back from the bank, paid, they called us and claimed we had cashed it, but of course, we didn’t.

I suspect some of your subscribers are confusing organizations, or signed up so casually and quickly that they soon forgot that they had. Or, later, they are confusing your org with some other that has less admirable tactics.

And there are inevitably people who, in spite of 3 reminder letters and a personal phone call, claimed that they never got the bill or heard from us. 1% of any group will be unexplainable.

I’ll admit to clicking “this is spam” on things I no longer want. However, I didn’t know this filed a complaint. I thought it just added an instruction to my spam filter. Glad I know that now.

I’ve had people submit my email address to a company, in which case the company is not at fault. I’ve also had companies bury the opt out checkbox in a bunch of other verbiage in my order form or license agreement.

As to why people don’t click on the unsubscribe link…I’ve been told that some spammers don’t honor this link, but instead consider it a signal that this is an active email address, and they sell that address to other spammers.

Depends on your e-mail system. If you are using any of the web based mail systems then it may very well send a complaint. If you are getting your e-mail locally, then no it doesn’t.