A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times



Well I’ve gone over my bedroom with a fine toothed comb,
but I just can’t find it anywhere...

You see, call me paranoid if you will, but over the last few months I’ve become increasingly certain that there’s a video camera or webcam hidden somewhere in that room. I don’t know who put it there, or how, but it just has to be there...

How else can I explain the 20 or 30 emails I get each day
trying to sell me Viagra, a penis enlargement - or both?

I mean, these emails must be carefully targeted, mustn’t they? These people wouldn’t waste time and money sending their offers to just anyone. So they must have some way of finding out who is a ‘hot’ prospect for what they’re selling. I think the video camera or webcam must be the answer...

Unless my x’s sent in my details...
hmmm only just thought of that. I wonder.

What’s that you’re saying... you get those emails too... and you’re equipped with something which would frighten a horse... and you’d give a sex-starved rabbit a run for its money?

My webcam theory is starting to look a bit shaky then.
Maybe I need to think about this a bit more...

Now, I said these companies wouldn’t send mails to just anyone, because it would be a waste of time and money. But when I said that, I was thinking with a direct mail marketer’s head... not an e-mail marketer’s one.

You see, when you prepare a direct mail shot, you have to choose the people who are going to receive it very carefully. It’s an expensive business. As a rough guide you can expect to pay somewhere around 80p to £1 per person contacted. When you’re spending that kind of money to write to someone, you need to have a pretty good reason for suspecting that they will need or want what you’re selling.

Now, a direct mail marketer really would want access to that webcam...
or at least a nod and a wink from the poor bloke’s missus
before sending off his mailshot!

But when you prepare an e-mail shot there are no such constraints. Once you have your list of e-mail addresses, the cost per contact is just about zero, and the amount of time involved is about as long as it takes to press a couple of keys on a computer keyboard.

Those companies sending out hundreds of thousands of emails, don’t care very much that the vast majority of people receiving them, have absolutely no interest in what they’re selling, because there’s virtually no financial penalty to them for not hitting their target. There’s just a potential profit if the odd e-mail somehow strays in the direction of some idiot who wants to show off in the showers, and has miraculously accumulated enough money to pay someone to make it happen.

Now, you might be thinking at this point that this blog entry is going to be about how great e-mail marketing is when compared with boring old expensive direct mail. But it isn’t...

Because there’s a penalty to be paid,
and it’s one which is going to get bigger and bigger over time.
The whole process carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.

When the postman delivers my snail-mail (as spotty-faced youths with an aversion to daylight like to call it) each morning at home, there might be 3 pieces of direct mail - and I receive a lot, because I’m interested in it and encourage it. The average person though, receives just 2 pieces a week in this country, and despite what they might tell you, the vast majority of it gets opened.

But when I log on to my various e-mail accounts, it’s a different story.

A typical day will see well over 100 unsolicited emails landing in my inbox... all speculative sales letters promoting stuff I’ve never shown even the remotest interest in buying. Nowadays, I delete them all without reading...

And if there was something in there which I was interested in –
that would get deleted too... tarred with the same brush.

You see, when you carry out an e-mail shot, you are competing with hundreds and thousands of other messages... most of them both inappropriate and poorly targeted. It’s the absolute opposite of virtue by association...

Like being damned by the company you keep.

If you’ve been online for any length of time, you will be only too aware that the amount of unsolicited e-mail just grows and grows. And anything worthwhile simply gets buried in an increasing pile of irrelevance.

And despite the EU’s legislation in December 2003,
designed to ban ‘spam’ (don’t they just love banning things?)
this is set to continue unabated.

You see, nobody seems to have told those Euro-Leeches (think I might trademark that) what the first ‘W’ stands for in WWW. It stands for ‘World’! The borders of the internet don’t conveniently coincide with those of Europe.

If we assume for one Fairyland-type moment that all these nasty spam mailers are sufficiently fearful of the Euro-Leeches powers of retribution (perhaps they’ve seen one too many WWII PoW camp films) that they dare not send another unsolicited e-mail from Europe... then I think even the densest of them might just come up with a solution...

Like... oh I don’t know... how about having them sent from a server set up for the purpose in the Cayman Islands or somewhere like that.

Look, I’m not an expert on this. Please don’t e-mail me to say that the Cayman Islands have the strictest anti-spam laws in the world, punishable by knee capping and decapitation...

The point I’m trying to make is that European legislation is completely impotent against the rising tide of spam. Somebody, somewhere in the world will be only too pleased to take on the junk e-mail business of anyone unable to operate out of Europe...

The Euro-Leeches act as if the world ends
at the furthest European border, but it doesn’t.

Which also explains... while I’m on a roll... why thousands of British jobs are disappearing off to Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Minimum wage laws (like anti-spam legislation) only work if you’re operating in a closed environment. If you’re not, then the business simply moves somewhere else where conditions are more favourable.

But I don’t want to get into that. Well, I do,
but it’s not got much to do with e-mail marketing.

So anyway, back to the plot. We now have a situation where e-mail marketing has already reached ‘epidemic’ proportions, where the financial barriers to getting involved are negligible, and the legal barriers are likely to have no effect, other than to keep a few hundred Euro-Leeches in smoked salmon.

All the evidence points to e-mail marketing becoming increasingly ineffective over the next couple of years, as internet users become more and more swamped with junk, and just...mentally switch off to it all.

And it’s no good you sitting there... yes you ‘Mr Ethical Internet Marketing Man’, and saying that none of this applies to you because you don’t send out junk emails, and only mail to people who have opted in to receive information from you.

It also affects you too...

Because in an effort to cut down on the crap cluttering their inboxes, internet users are increasingly turning to ‘spam-filters’ to separate the things they want from the unsolicited stuff they don’t. But guess what? These programmes are far from perfect, and I know from bitter experience that a significant proportion of your opt-in list won’t receive your carefully targeted emails...

It’s bulk e-mail - so it doesn’t get through...
or at least some of it doesn’t.

And you won’t really have any idea what got through and what didn’t - which when you’re trying to assess the effectiveness of a promotion, is a complete disaster.

I often now have to send out the alerts for this very blog twice, because I can tell from the site statistics (perhaps a topic for another day) that up to half the opt-in list simply hasn’t received the message.

It’s just so unreliable... and as I keep saying,
it’s getting worse and worse and worse.

And as I also keep saying, I’m no expert on any of this. I just know from my own experience and others I speak to, what’s happening. I don’t know if there’s a solution right around the corner which will transform e-mail into an ultra-reliable marketing tool...

All I know for sure, is that if you have a business or enterprise which is relying exclusively on the internet or e-mail marketing for revenues, it’s not a business or enterprise which is based on firm and reliable foundations, it's more a simple numbers game.

But I’m not suggesting for one minute that you should abandon
your online marketing and communications activities...

But at the very least, you should be taking steps to investigate and develop more traditional ways of gaining and then communicating with customers first. And for many businesses, that probably means finding out where people live and paying the good old postie 40p to drop a good old fashioned letter on their doormat.

It will almost certainly be delivered, your customer will probably open it...
and when it arrives, the competition for his attention will be minor.

I can’t ever see a time in the near future when I’ll be able to say the same about an e-mail.

SO STOP SENDING ME THEM !!



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