Silverpop - Are You Failing the Email Administrative Basics?
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Are You Failing the Email Administrative Basics?

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
25 August 2008

I recently opened a promotional email from my favorite business publication (I subscribe to the offline version). This email was promoting one of the publication's sister brands. Since I've been subscribing for years, I don't recall specifically that I agreed to receive promotional emails from this company, but I presume I did.

Okay, so far. But this major brand failed on some of the most basic email administrative tactics. Let me show you how:

Below is the unsubscribe and contact information located at the bottom of the email (I've removed the company name):

If you would prefer not to receive further commercial messages about "Sister Publication,"
please click here and confirm your request.
This message is being sent to you by Parent Business Publication.

This email has been sent to

To contact us by mail, send correspondence to:
Customer Relations Department
Big Business Publication
City, State, ZIP Code

If you would prefer not to receive further messages from Big Business Publication, please click on the following Internet link and confirm your request.

I clicked the "click here" link to unsubscribe, but the page didn't load despite several attempts. Either it was a bad link, they were having server issues, or some other technical issue had arisen.

Then, I clicked the second hyperlinked "global" unsubscribe link. This link worked but took me to an "email privacy preferences" form. The form pre-populated my account number but asked for my email address and first and last name. It included two pre-checked boxes: one asking if I wanted to renew my subscription and another asking if I wanted to receive promotional emails from the parent company.

I replied to the email telling the company that its unsubscribe page did not load. I got an automated response: "… emails are normally answered within one business day."

Here's how this household name failed four email administrative basics:

  • The unsubscribe link didn't work. It happens, but testing the unsubscribe link and process frequently can uncover and prevent it most of the time. It is working now, but took several days before the unsubscribe process was operating.
  • No phone number or email address was provided in the email to let me send questions or comments or to request a manual unsubscribe.
  • The reply-to address worked and had a reasonably well-written auto-response message, but after one week and counting, still no response. I assume that this company has not staffed appropriately for email-related issues. My guess is my email went to a general Web site or customer-support department, rather than a specific email address that someone on the marketing or production team was monitoring and could have answered quickly.
  • The two links—one to unsubscribe from the parent company list and one from the sister publication—were well intended, but the copy and format was poorly executed, and neither process actually worked. The second unsubscribe/preferences page did not appear to enable either process. This company did not comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
While we think of email marketing in terms of promotional, content, transactional and other messages, these are also an extension of your product and service offerings. As such, they require the same administrative and customer-support efforts that you provide for other offerings.

The mistakes this company has made are simply unacceptable and, frankly, easily avoided.




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