When Your Email Marketing Misfires – The Abuse-Abyss

Email abuse and content marketing

E-mail marketing is hit or miss. Sometimes you miss, and this is what it looks like.

Most marketing managers in small and medium-sized companies use an e-mail service provider like Constant Contact, MailChimp, emailr or AWeber. These services offer remarkable power, sometimes for free. But remember: “With great power comes great responsibility.

You’re always treading the edge of the abuse-abyss. Don’t fall in.

Last week I received a message via Constant Contact from somebody who had merrily gone through LinkedIn, harvesting e-mail addresses of people in his network. I didn’t want the message, and I didn’t even feel enough affinity toward the person to contact him first and tell him that my objective in connecting with him had not been to get special offers from him.

Instead, I looked for and found the Report Abuse link at the bottom of the message. I hesitated for a moment…

Then I pulled the trigger.

Building your list

Keep in mind that there are a few ways to build your e-mail list:

  • Readers want you. You can build a list with single opt-in. Readers click on a link, and they’re added to your list. Smart.
  • Readers really want you. With double opt-in, readers click that link, then must validate their opt-in by clicking another link in a confirmation e-mail message the service sends them. Really smart.
  • You want readers. You gather e-mail addresses and plop them into a database in the e-mail service. Dumb.

I wouldn’t recommend springing the last one even on readers and customers you’ve had for years. If your relationship with them is that strong, it will survive your explaining the move to a new e-mail system and your request that they opt in to keep in touch with you.

You turn an important, psychological corner when you go from e-mail sent directly from your desktop to an e-mail/newsletter service.

It’s a matter of trust, so it’s not wise to surprise people with this kind of thing.

The Abuse Complaint

A few minutes after reporting the abuse, I received an auto-responder from Constant Contact:

We have automatically logged your complaint in our system and will in-turn review the customer account in question. Constant Contact does not tolerate spam and takes all complaints against our customers very seriously. A member of our Compliance Team will follow-up with you only if additional information is required.

In addition, please know that your address has been permanently removed from this senders list.

You’ve probably never seen this side of the transaction, have you?

Real spammers don’t care about this, of course, but marketing managers just trying to do their job should. It’s a sign that you should rethink your shortcut to stay away from the abuse-abyss.

What e-mail abuse stories do you have? Let me know in the comments.

photo credit: Willem van Bergen


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”