Does “Engagement” Matter for Email Marketing?

Today in a private forum some friends, all of them involved in one way or another with the email marketing world, were discussing a new post on the Only Influencers email blog. In that post Bob Frady (an email marketer) expresses his approval of comments by Dela Quist (another email marketer) that dismiss the importance of “engagement” in email marketing. For those who are not familiar with email marketing terms, “engagement” means the degree to which recipients of marketing email open, read, and respond to the offers presented to them.

I read the Only Influencers blog occasionally. It’s good to listen sometimes to those who fundamentally disagree with you, and many of the people who blog there fundamentally disagree with me about what I call “spam” (unsolicited bulk email). I’ve long since concluded that Dela Quist believes that sending email that recipients did not request is not only OK but often a good idea. He is a big proponent of sending more email to more recipients and not worrying about whether they actually want that email or not. (See Dela’s most recent blog on Only Influencers.) Now it looks to me as if Bob Frady agrees with him.

I had planned to write a nice, long, scathing blog about Mr. Frady’s comments, since there are companies (IMHO foolish companies) who listen to this sort of marketing advice. Some of those companies also listen to me from time to time. Unfortunately I was busy this morning with real work, and two people with a great deal more experience in bulk email deliverability than I have beat me to it:

Al managed the email compliance and deliverability team at ExactTarget for years, and still works on policy issues in that field. Before ExactTarget, he worked at other email service providers. He started his career with the original anti-spam blocklist, MAPS. Andrew manages email compliance at iContact. He also has a way with metaphors, comparing marketers who reject “engagement” with doctors who reject vaccination. 😉

Just wanted to say “thanks” to you both for scooping me making it unnecessary for me to address Mr. Frady’s blog article at greater length!

One Response to Does “Engagement” Matter for Email Marketing?

  1. It’s a bit cheezy to comment on my own blog, but I just saw *another* response to Bob Frady, this one by Mickey Chandler on Spamtacular.

    In his response Mickey refocuses attention where it actually needs to be: not on the ISP, but on the individual user. Technology has evolved significantly over the past decade; more and more ISPs leave most decisions about which email to accept to their users, providing the users with powerful sets of tools to enforce their decisions on who is allowed to communicate with them. In this environment, a mailer who ignores what users want is likely to find his email dumped into the junk folder or even blocked outright.

    As antispammers never tire of reminding people, spam is not unwanted email but unsolicited email. However, to most marketers there’s no practical difference between a user who didn’t ask for your email and therefore blocks it as spam, and a user who doesn’t *want* the email that he or she sees you sending to him and blocks it because he thinks you promised one thing and are delivering something else. In either case, your email goes into the trash and subsequent emails are usually blocked.

    Mickey is currently in charge of compliance at the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget), and has been active in email issues for more than 20 years. As with Al and Andrew, he knows what he is talking about.

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