A Sneak Peak Into My Inbox

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I started in IT because my best friend said he could get me a job in the email marketing company he was working for as a developer.

This was in the middle of my university years, and I could do with a bit of distraction from the daily slump of going to college. The company was the market leader in the Netherlands in e-mail marketing managed services, mostly serving enterprise sized customers.

Now this was back in early 2007, a time when e-mail marketing was just moving out of its “Wild West” phase of massive excel sheets of emails being traded around like they were cups of coffee. To counter this, the Email Marketing Association Netherlands (EMMA) was founded, and some rigor was put around opt-ins, definition of spam, etc. Most managed service and consulting companies followed this, and by the time I joined the company, most of my induction was around ethical email marketing practices like this.

So for my 10th year anniversary of working in IT I decided to take a look at my inbox to get an idea if the world still cares as much about ethical email practices as they did back then. Please keep in mind that this is not a statistical analysis of the state of today’s email marketing, but more me looking at the last 100 promotional emails (which I define as emails that are not transaction based) I have received. I would say for entertainment purposes, but when I was testing 100 emails it made realize why I decided to move on from my first role in the IT industry very quickly.

First of all I have to say that Google does a good job at filtering spam out of my inbox. Only two of the 100 emails were what I consider as spam. What is left over a period of 38 days after filtering out spam is 41% transactional and 59% promotional emails. One company sent me 19 emails over the 38 day period. If you’re sending an email every other day, I would consider this overkill, no matter how good your products are.

One of the main developments in the email marketing industry over the past years has been the rise of responsive templates to help deal with the explosion of devices, all with different screen sizes and resolutions. I was positively surprised that only four out of the 34 unique companies that sent me email over this period didn’t have responsive templates. Three of them are small independent companies, but the other one is one of the largest hotel chains in the world.

The second part that I wanted to look at was the unsubscribe method. In the past I have been in workshops where the marketing manager would have said things like “Our opt-in rate is going down, let’s make it harder for people to unsubscribe”. It seems like that type of marketing manager is dying out since 28 of 34 companies had an unsubscribe link where there were 2 clicks or less needed to unsubscribe. Of the other 6, four of them required logging in to unsubscribe, and for two the unsubscribe link ran into an error (one of them however seems to have unsubscribed me anyway). A month later I am pleased to say that everyone who I unsubscribed from has stopped sending me emails, and I would call that a win for ethical marketers everywhere.

A few other facts that I found along the way:

  • 20 of 34 were recognized as mailing lists by Google, allowing me to unsubscribe from the email header itself.
  • 24 of 34 ended up in my promotional emails tab in Gmail, the ones that didn’t were again the smaller companies.
  • Only 11 of 34 let you unsubscribe in the header of the iOS mail app, something that was introduced a little under a year ago in iOS 10.
  • 19 of 34 companies included a social banner somewhere in their email to help you connect to their social media sites.

The last thing I was really interested were the “From” and “Reply-to” email addresses. Since trust is key when receiving an email from an organisation you would expect all them to send it from their regular domain (info@website.com), or from a subdomain (info@email.website.com). Shockingly, three companies used a third party domain without any reference to their brand, and two companies sent a “From” e-mail with gibberish in there (mail101@lor01.emips.um). With all the options out there, that shouldn’t have to happen anymore.

So what can we conclude from this? Well, nothing scientific. I do get the idea however that organisations still struggle with how to use email marketing, especially in how to tie it into the larger customer experience. In the end, I would rather receive one email every other day from a company that understands my unique customer journey rather than a company that consistently sends me email at 4:15 in the morning, or one that never sends me anything, but then sends me 3 emails in a day to try and get me to renew my contract. If this is you, reach out to me or one of my fellow marketing automation specialists and we will help you achieve positive customer experiences through marketing in the future.

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