Posted by: Robin Houghton, director, Eggbox Marketing Ltd.

A blog flare-up recently revealed how the topic of unwanted email still generates emotions. Social media pioneer Chris Brogan emailed 4,000 of his contacts to ask if they would care to subscribe to his email newsletter. For me it was polite, well targeted, not spam. For some it was clearly beyond the pale. The resulting discussion was revealing.

Like me, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a good number of spammy emails over the years, that’s not even counting PPC (pills, porn and casinos). This incident made me think again about the question of a person’s spam threshold and how so many businesses are happy to trample all over it.

Consider the lengths some will go to in order to ‘lock in’ email addresses to their database. Why? What’s the point of forcing people to receive your messages if they don’t want them?

For example:

1. The company websites which, when you join, buy or download something, include a mandatory checkbox to say you’ve read their T & Cs, when at the foot is a little statement saying you agree to receive emails from them. For evermore, if they also employ the tactics in point 2.

2. The companies who email you, claiming you can opt out at any time by phoning an 0870 number or logging onto your account and changing your preferences – but if you only visited the site once and were forced to ‘create an account’ just to enter, you may not remember your password is 4788dxjKI21. Sometimes they even tell you it will take at least 2 weeks for your unsubscribe request to take effect. Even the budget ESPs provide one-click instant unsubscribe functionality, so there’s no excuse for any of this.

3. The companies who send you email, completely unsolicited, until you ask them to stop, in other words, opt-out rather than opt-in. Often low on compliance awareness, they tend to either ignore your unsubscribe request or get all indignant about it. I’m afraid arts organisations and some smaller businesses tend to predominate here.

So I would say to email marketers: set aside for one moment what the law says you can or can’t do and put yourself in the shoes of your recipient. What’s your spam threshold, and, more to the point, do you apply the same standards to your customers?