Johnson's World: Email Marketing is Too Easy

Make sure the fruits of your labor don't produce spam

May 1, 2012

At Copresco, we’ve begun to give boxes of citrus fruit from a local charity for our holiday gift-giving. Our clients get healthy snacks and Copresco supports a good cause. It works; the fruit boxes are popular with our clients and memorable as well.

The only drawback is that the oranges and grapefruits are not packaged for shipping. This means local customers are blessed with hand delivery, but the rest of our national clientele are left fruitless. What to do?

Harry & David of Washington state have been shipping mail order gift packages of fruit for a century. This proved to be a workable compliment to our hand-delivered fruit.

Unintended Consequences

Here the real story begins. My secretary Chris found Harry & David on the Web, selected a suitable gift package, and arranged drop-shipping directly to our out-of-state clients. She received a confirming email, and we were done with our holiday shopping for another year.

The next day Chris received a promotional email from Harry & David. The day after, two more emails. It is now late spring. Sun is shining, Santa is on vacation, and Harry & David are still mercilessly spamming my secretary. This fruit purveyor is using email blasts to make sure that she never forgets them. And it is working, but not as intended. Some things Chris has to say about Harry & David aren’t suitable for publication, so suffice to say that she is not pleased. She is downright angry.

Harry & David filled a need for us. It is a pity that they’ve subsequently ruined our fledging relationship with overly aggressive email marketing.

There are lessons to be learned from this experience. In Johnson’s World there is always a lesson.

Lesson One: Email Can be Too Easy

Print costs money, as does postage. Email is free, right? So why not send out more emails? Every day…or thrice per day? When something is that easy, it is easy to go overboard.

Print is much less likely to be used to excess. It takes more work to prepare, more follow-up to produce, and more budget to mail. This is not a bad thing! Study after study shows that properly produced print campaigns produce a return many times the initial investment.

Someone who needs your (or your client’s) product or service welcomes your printed communication, but even those with a positive inclination will begin deleting email unopened if you overdo it.

This brings us to our next point.

Lesson Two: Email is Annoying; Print isn’t

Despite the pejorative sobriquet “junk mail,” it is very difficult to turn good will into ill via mail. Excess print mail is merely discarded, but usually glanced at first and very often retained for future reference.

Email has the power to annoy that is unmatched by any other medium. Your clients need to be educated that too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

“We don’t spam, we communicate,” said B.J. Baranosky of used equipment vendor JJBender, only partially tongue in cheek. It all depends upon which side of the send button you stand.

Lesson Three: Savvy Marketers Use Both Print and Email

The Nigerian bankers stopped sending letters when email became available. They knew that their scams were just criminal activities of no real value. Harry & David, on the other hand, still mails us a flyer or a catalog every month. They believe they have something worthwhile to offer and use every possible avenue to get the word out.

Educating our clients (and practicing what we preach) takes patience, perseverance, and finesse. The message of the value of print must be repeated and restated regularly.

But please, not every day!

Steve Johnson is president of Copresco in Carol Stream, IL, a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him at [email protected].