Is it email marketing or SPAM in a fancy package?

Jun 21, 2017
Content Marketing

Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Using marketing technology is one of those things. Email automation, especially drip email, could be destroying your brand. If you’re using drip email campaigns for lead generation, chances are you’re doing more harm than good.

Email marketing is one of the most important tactics for content marketing – or any marketing. Research from the Content Marketing Institute confirms this and it holds true across geographic region, industry and for B2B and B2C marketing. These findings assume you know your audience and they have opted in to your email list. Many drip email campaigns miss this important element of success – getting permission prior to mailing.

What is drip email?

If you’re not familiar with drip email or drip marketing, it’s the practice of sending a series of pre-written communications – usually email – to people over a period of time. Depending on what action the reader takes, follow-up emails are sent with pertinent information to help them along to the next course of action.

If you’ve ever used a fitness app or participated in a goal-oriented project, you’ve seen how this works. Miss a workout and you get a gentle reminder. Don’t log three or four workouts and you get a message with advice on how to get back on track. If you’ve given permission to receive email communication, this can be incredibly helpful. If you haven’t, it can be downright annoying.

Next logical step in relationship marketing

My favourite email technology, Mailchimp, recently made automation available to everyone using the product. Email automation is the next logical step after merge tags, a technique marketers embraced in the age of relationship marketing. Merge tags allow you to add dynamic content to your email campaigns. It’s why you receive email addressed to your name or, in worst-cast scenarios, “Dear First Name”.

Mailchimp entices you to “Personalize your marketing with powerful automations that talk to your customers just like you would.” It’s a terrific feature if you are, in fact, speaking to your customers. But if you’re using drip email for a fishing – or phishing – expedition and you’re sending unsolicited email, this technique is incredibly annoying, not to mention illegal.

Let’s break down a real-life example and why it’s so offensive.

Drip email round one – May 30

Subject line: What if Lush Digital Media never had to write a (high-quality) blog post again?

Hey Sarah,

I came across your profile on LinkedIn and found it very interesting.  I found it relevant to reach out because I am part of a company that writes high quality blog posts for B2B service and software companies like Lush Digital Media.

Looking forward to hearing back.

Problem: The biggest issue I have with this email is they’re offering a service that will put me out of business. They obviously haven’t researched me very well. They think I work for a software company when, in fact, my business is the very thing they’re offering.

Result: Garden-variety spam email. Ignore.

Drip email round two – June 2

 Subject line: What if Lush Digital Media never had to write a (high-quality) blog post again?

 Hey Sarah,

Hope you’re having an awesome day!

Just wanted to follow up on my last email regarding the premium blogging service we offer over here at Spammy Spam Spam Company and see if it might be a good fit for Lush Digital Media?

[Lots of hard-sell text – deleted for space.]
[Call to action – deleted for space.]

Problem: The text is overly familiar and a little bit demanding. I don’t know this person. I’ve never worked with the company. I’m less impressed than before when I thought it was a simple spam campaign. I certainly don’t have desire to work with this crowd.

Result: I know now I’m in a drip email campaign. Ignore and hunker down for more.

Drip email round three – June 5

Subject line: What if Lush Digital Media never had to write a (high-quality) blog post again?

Hey Sarah,

I trust that things are going well for you this week.

I’ve reached out to you a couple times, to see if you and one of our Blogging Specialists could chat about Lush Digital Media, and why I think our blogging service would be a good fit for your team but I realized you might not be the best person to connect with.

If you wouldn’t mind putting me in touch with whomever might be responsible for the blogging decisions at Lush Digital Media, that would be fabulous.  Or, if you are that person, let me know if you’ve got some time this week or next to connect.  You can find a time to speak with one of our representatives to learn more.

Thanks, and have a great day!

Problem: I’m being chastised for not responding to spam. Now they’ve thoroughly annoyed me, I’m offered a chance to turn their attention to someone – anyone – from my team who can help them.

Result:  Despite their chummy opening, what they can trust is things are going less well for me every time they write. At least the text is getting shorter. Complain to co-workers.

Drip email round four – June 8

Subject line: What if Lush Digital Media never had to write a (high-quality) blog post again?

Hey Sarah,

Just wanted to follow up and see if you got the last couple emails I shot your way. Wondering if you or someone else might be the best person to connect with regarding blogging at Lush Digital Media? Get back to me when you get a chance.

Thanks, and have a great day!

Problem: The text is getting shorter, the tone increasingly pathetic and it’s quite obvious these people don’t know the first thing about me and my company.

Result: I’ll never, ever consider doing business with this company. Write back to them after episode 143 of Brand Newsroom is published where I rant about the practice of drip email and the use of email automation to spam your customers. Tell them they have a starring role. Never hear from them again.

I started to complain about unsolicited drip email campaigns to anyone who would listen. It wasn’t long before I had a long list of things people hate about this tactic. The more popular reasons include:

  1. The text is overly familiar Using informal language that assumes you have a personal relationship is highly annoying. Even more offensive are emails signed off with a little ‘kiss’ at the bottom.
  1. Personal information is incorrect Wrong name, wrong title, wrong company and wrong line of business are all common errors. If you’re going to spam people, have the courtesy to get your facts straight.
  1. Wrong products or services Don’t pitch a competitive product or something of no interest to the recipient. If you’re making the bogus promise to achieve a page-one ranking on Google, make sure the recipient has a website.
  1. Frequency is too high Harassment is never a good marketing tactic and dialing up the mailing schedule isn’t going to win you fans or new customers.
  1. Demanding behavior – In one stellar example, this epitomises everything wrong with drip email campaigns:

                       “Sarah, I emailed U 2 weeks ago! Do U wish our business or not! I will just go to Sydney and someone will do as I wish! Dr. Mike C”

  1. Wrong location I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has suggested a meeting in Boston, New York, London, Sydney or some other major capital city – all far, far away from my office in Perth.
  1. Poor grammar – Some of the drip email campaigns I’ve seen have invested in good copywriting. Others haven’t bothered to even get the spelling right. You have a far better chance of getting a good result if you bother with the small details like punctuation, spelling and grammar.

Modern marketing the right way around

New marketing technologies are giving modern marketers more opportunities to reach more people than ever before. They are also providing a way to run your business into the ground with shoddy business practices. If you’re looking to grow your business, it’s imperative for the reputation of your brand that you use martech for good, not evil.

Generating leads is most effective when the people you contact feel like you’ve made an effort to understand them, their business and the problems they’re facing. Using spam techniques bolstered by technology is not likely to serve your audience. Sending unsolicited emails, especially using a drip email approach, is not the best way to cultivate a loyal audience or gain new business.

If you would like advice on how to connect with new customers and use effective marketing techniques, get in touch with Lush. We’re experts at creating authentic content marketing strategies to resonate with your intended audience.