The high standards of e-mail

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Is e-mail held to a higher standard? Yes. And that's a good thing.

The other day, as usual, I grabbed the mail from the mailbox, walked to my recycling bin, and used my mind filter to separate the junk from the interesting, wanted mail. There were fliers from supermarket chains, bills, real estate agent postcards, credit card offers and an official notice from the county where I live.

This last piece had that unclear feel to it. It looked official, had all the right words and appeared to be from our county tax assessor. My gut instinct suggested it was a mortgage offer. But to make sure we weren't being reassessed, I opened the envelope.

Yes, you guessed it. It was indeed an offer from a mortgage lender to refinance our loan. Ironically, we had our loan with this lender until we refinanced a few years ago.

But this piece was out-and-out fraudulent and misleading in my eyes. Nowhere on the envelope did it identify the company name, and it clearly was trying to trick me into opening the envelope. It succeeded.

If this had been an e-mail, it likely would have violated one or more aspects of the CAN-SPAM Act, received a high spam complaint rate, been blocked or filtered by ISPs, triggered various user spam filters, landed the sender's IP address on various blacklists and permanently damaged this company's brand in the mind of many recipients.

So back to my original question - is e-mail held to a higher standard? Yes it is, and I think that's a good thing. While the e-mail ecosystem of authentication, accreditation, reputation, filters, blacklists and spam complaints is far from perfect - it's helped us create a marketing channel that delivers tremendous ROI and, when done correctly, is highly valued and wanted by recipients. Marketers build more profitable relationships with customers, and recipients are more likely to act on messages they want and have invited.

On the other hand, consider fax marketing and telemarketing. Both were generally annoying to the consumer and usually unsolicited. Now one channel is dead and the other severely injured. While it's true that both were victims of changing technologies and consumer preferences, I believe what really hurt them was that they were not based on permission or respect to the recipient.

E-mail continues to thrive in spite of spam because of this higher standard. Embrace it, and take your e-mail marketing program to the next level.

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