E-mail Appending: Pros, Cons and Action Tips
Spam is in the eye of the beholder. This adage offered by Anne Holland, publisher of MarketingSherpa.com, encapsulates the current discussions about e-mail appending.
Most of the debates center around privacy as it relates to recipients’ permission. Some experts propose that the existence of a business relationship in one channel (e.g., direct mail) doesn’t justify marketers’ contact through another (e.g., online) when the customer hasn’t given his or her specific permission.
“Until [customers] grant permission to send that e-mail, you shouldn’t assume you have it,” says Margie Arbon, director of operations for Mail Abuse Prevention System, a non-profit organization that works with Internet service providers to prohibit vendors from abusing e-mail systems.
Arbon says e-mail appending shifts costs from merchants to customers, because not everyone has free e-mail access. Some people pay by bandwidth, some pay per minute of access, and some have e-mail forwarded to their cell phones and pay per minute of call time, she contends.
On the other side, appending’s enthusiasts point to the low rates of opt-outs from recipients (the commonly cited figure is less than 2 percent of all appended names) as evidence that customers don’t mind having their e-mail addresses appended. Ben Isaacson, executive director for the Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM), a trade organization that helps marketers leverage interactive opportunities, believes that most append providers have taken a strong ethical stance on consumer permission. To ensure this, AIM will release a set of appending guidelines in May that cover areas such as source of names, delivery of message and definition of appending terms (see “For More Info”).
Many proponents also say the marketer/customer relationship carries enough weight to justify contact through appending. Says Regina Brady, president of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions, a marketing consultancy: “Your customers do like to hear from you.”