Friday, December 23, 2005

Expectations around opt-in mail lists

A month ago, I signed my son up for baseball using an on-line registration tool. Regretfully and despite my attempts to avoid it, I somehow made it onto the registration company's opt-in list. Now, I don't have any "relationship" with this on-line registration company. My relationship is with my local little league. Yet, this organization seems to think they have a relationship with me and has put me into their spam list - a frustration all of us suffer every day.

The company, active.com, thinks transactionally, not relationally. They have been taught by relationship marketing experts that getting my name and spamming me will improve my relationship with them. It doesn't and won't. So if your organization does the same thing - stop it. I never had a relationship with the company and if you do the same thing - I won't have a relationship with yours. The only trust between me and the organization is they will accurately place my order with the league and not lose, misplace or exploit my credit card information. Putting me on the spam list (I distinctly remember disabling that request) has LOWERED my perception and trust in the company. Moreover, like the loser in high school who clings onto you and thinks you are their best friend because you walk past them at school, Active.com thinks it has a relationship with me because I was forced to use its service. We aren't friends and I certainly don't advocate for them.

Now to the opt-in. Like all good, legal opt-in programs, there is an opt-out program. You click on the unsubscribe and you are removed from the list - at least that is the expectation! With Active, I got a promotion offer email on Dec 9th and unsubscribed. I thought I had unsubscribed to Active.com. But nooooo. It was like wack-a-mole. The next day, I got the local events newsletter. So I subscribed to that. Then today, I got the monthly newsletter. I unsubscribed to that. Unfortunately, my unsubscription letter said they took me off the weekly newsletter list (not monthly) - I guess as a threat that they still may send me the monthly letter I just unsubscribed to.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Active.com, perhaps they have a semi-monthly newsletter or a holiday letter or a Chinese New Year's offer. Who knows? I will - when I get yet another spam I don't want from a vendor I don't have a relationship with. Active, like many misguided companies believe that if I am on their current subscriber list, they are building a relationship with me and building value - they aren't. Furthermore, the clever marketing manager who designed the scheme that we only unsubscribe to a specific piece of spam and not all spam and thinks they are beating the system is a fool. He or she is simply unaware of or indifferent to the impact this behavior has on their brand.

This transactional mindset has defeated any relationship-building benefits that could be derived from their "customer communications."

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