Spam: You probably hate it but can you define it?

Everyone knows that they dont like spam, yet the term means different things to different people. Over the last few years the definitions of spam have been changing towards the idea that an email that a user doesnt want and isnt interested in is spam. Beware of allowing this to lull you into a false sense of security though. When the DMA asked consumers nearly two thirds said less than 10% of the emails they received were relevant to them. Not everyone has changed their definition of spam either, just under 20% of people would describe it as an email that they didnt specifically request. A further study asked participants to rate acceptability of promotional emails on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being totally unacceptable and 5 being totally acceptable). Permission clearly made marketing emails more acceptable, where the consumer had given permission for ongoing communication participants rated it as 4.1 out of 5. When the consumer had interacted with a company, but had not given permission for contact, the score dropped significantly to 2.5. The worst score was for marketing material from companies who had not been given permission and with whom the consumer had never interacted. This scored 1.7 out of 5.

There are two simple conclusions to draw from this research. Build opt-in lists, and ensure email marketing campaigns are targeted to ensure relevancy to the consumer. This will avoid seeing your email classed as spam by users.

There are easy solutions if your current opt-in list isnt that big. You just need to make the most of what you do have. Focus on emailing the people who have told you that it is acceptable and that they dont mind hearing from you. Dont assume that sending more emails than you do at the moment is excessive or over mailing.

Strategies to consider include increasing email activity around appropriate seasonal peaks. A great example is the extra bank holidays for the Royal Wedding, which mean that it would be unusual to take exception with so many people planning holidays to hearing a bit more from your preferred airline at the moment.

You also have a perfect group waiting to hear more from you in the form of your best subscribers. This group opens your emails more often and buys from those emails. They are happy to hear from you. If you are worried about subscriber fatigue in other areas of your list, then these are the people to focus your efforts on.

Make sure it is incredibly easy for your customers to opt in. One way to avoid agonising over making the most of the small opt in list that you have is to build a much bigger one!


Sarah Haines enjoys writing articles on a variety of topics, including email marketing. When not working she loves to travel. For more information about making the most of your email marketing, contact RapidShot.

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