What is your definition of spam? In a recent article from DM News, Q Interactive and Marketing Sherpa teamed up for a study to find out this definition according to consumers. If you are an e-mail marketer, the results of the study may surprise you. Here's a snapshot of what the articles reports: * 31% of respondents said that they consider "e-mails that were once useful but aren't relevant anymore” to be spam. * 41% hit the "report spam" button if "the e-mail was not of interest to me,” 25% if "I receive too much e-mail from the sender" and 20% if "I receive too much e-mail from all senders.” (yikes, how am I responsible for all senders?!?) * 56% thought that by clicking the button they would "filter all e-mail from that sender" while 21% believe it will notify the sender that the recipient did not find that specific e-mail useful so the sender will "do a better job of mailing me" in the future. * 47% of respondents believe by hitting the “report spam” button, they will be unsubscribed from the list. With all of the uproar around the increasing numbers of junk e-mails, you'd think that consumers would understand e-marketing better and -- at the very minimum -- know how to successfully unsubscribe from unwanted e-marketers lists! I guess we're not as far along as we think when it comes to e-mail. In fact, since this study resulted in the way it did, Q Interactive is urging the industry to better educate consumers on how to opt-out from unwanted e-mail messages. E-marketing is an interesting conundrum. As a channel, it is such a boon to direct marketers because it is inexpensive and really easy to measure and track campaign success. Yet, I think the success of it is tied to many factors. I was having a discussion with a colleague, Barbara Perdome of Grapevine Communications, and she really drove the point home. She shared with me that while many firms have been trying to cut down on direct mail expenditures because of rising costs of postage, printing, etc., many of those that she works with have pushed their DM campaigns to e-mail, and lessened the amount of direct mail campaigns. And, her opinion is that you can only do this if those who receive the e-marketing messages are going to be open to reading them. Let's face it, some segments of the population just aren't going to read e-mail messages. And it takes just 1/2 of a second to hit the delete button. On the other hand, most of us walk to our mailboxes each day and take the time to go through the mail that we receive through snail mail. We may still throw the marketing messages away, but Barbara thinks (and I agree with her) that more care is taken to look over each piece of mail prior to tossing it in the round file. Another colleague, Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing, advises business consultants to send their marketing messages many ways, and when it comes to online, you've got to send multiple e-mail messages along with advertising it in your online e-zine and on your website. Why? Because people simply don't read every e-mail message that they receive. Even those who have opted-in on his e-mail marketing list and want to attend his seminars and workshops don't always read his message until he's sent out several versions of it. People are stretched for time -- and then there's the argument that everyone gets so many e-mail messages each day, it's impossible to (a) read them all or (b) really pay attention to what each one is saying/offering/selling. You could argue that it is the same with direct mail -- and with telemarketing. I remember in my telecom sales days when we would do a dialing-for-dollars telemarketing sales day, we would have to call 20 customers in order to get one appointment. Sometimes, it was more like 30 or 40! I guess the point is that you need to be delivering relevant information to people who are interested in your particular products or services. The only way to accomplish this is through a direct marketing approach where you examine the customers who buy from you today, and determine what they look like from a demographic, lifestyle and financial perspective. Then, you can target your e-mail, direct mail or telemarketing campaigns to your customers with messages that will most likely be of interest to them. Of course, having the right creative is important, too. Your message has to be on target and your offer must be compelling. When it comes right down to it, all of the pieces of planning a direct marketing campaign are very important. However, if you aren't targeting the right people, your efforts may not have the payoff that you desire -- in spite of all of the other DM components that you've carefully crafted. Our advice is as simple as this: Use an intelligent approach for all of your direct marketing efforts to better hone in on a target group of customers or prospects. If you do this, those who you target will be less likely to hit delete, hang up, or throw your message into the trash can!