I am so sick of companies that scream about adding their addresses to my whitelist so they can get through my spam filters. Here’s one example from Hewlett Packard:
To ensure you properly receive your HP Technology at Work newsletter, and driver and support alerts, please add email@example.com to your book. If you also receive the following e-mails from HP then add these addresses to your book:
- HP Monthly promotions newsletter:
- Events and other general HP customer communications: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Order and support e-mail confirmations: Hewlett-Packard@confirm.hp.com
I have news for the corporate zombies and clueless marketdroids that design these sites and their e-mail bots:
If you’re getting caught in my spam filter, it’s your own damn fault!
Today’s spam filters are very, very good at recognizing spam and distinguishing it from desirable e-mail. If your messages are getting stuck in spam filters, that’s because they’re spam! Just because you think they’re not spam, doesn’t mean they aren’t.
Of course, like everything else, spam is not a binary quality. It is not the case that messages either are spam or are not spam. Rather most messages are a combination of spam and non-spam to greater or lesser degrees. For example, most e-mail signatures including my own contain a little bit of spam. Hopefully the ham in the top of the message is sufficient to make the tiny little ads I put for my books in the signature acceptable.
However, most e-mails sent by corporate systems are really over the top. Instead of being 1% spam and 99% ham, they’re 50% spam or more. Is it any wonder they keep getting caught in people’s filters? However, there are some really simple things a company can do to keep its messages from being marked as spam:
- Provide real e-mail addresses on your web site, not contact forms. Replies that come from an address in my outbox are a lot less likely to be marked as spam. (This also helps me keep a better record of our conversations.)
- Send plain text e-mail only, not HTML. Of course this means you can’t have all the flashing, colorful ads you like; but guess what? Those are spam!
- Remove all pointless legal notices from the messages such as “BLOCKBUSTER name, design and related marks are trademarks of Blockbuster, Inc. Â©2006 Blockbuster, Inc. All rights reserved.” or “Copyright Â© 2006 Apple Computer, Inc. 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014 All rights reserved”. Your customers and correspondents don’t care about these messages and don’t read them. They’re effectively meaningless anyway. Get rid of them.
- Only send the customer what they asked for. Do not treat a tech support incident or a forgotten password request as an opportunity to upsell. That’s spam.
- Require separate opt-in for all marketing newsletters. Not only should you not default a customer to receiving your marketing spam when they buy something from you. You shouldn’t even ask them if they want to. Only send marketing spam to customers who specifically ask you to do that, separate from a purchase or other communication.
- Stop using form letters. If a customer writes you with a personal question or comment, have a real human being type out the response manually. And under no circumstances should you send purely automated responses that say, “We think this answers your question. If it doesn’t, write us back; and maybe we’ll ask an actual person read your message this time.”)
If you follow these simple rules, your mail will fly through most spam filters. (The only exceptions are the truly obnoxious ones that require someone to confirm sending a message before it’s let through.)
I’m sure many companies will complain that they can’t do this; but what they really mean is that they don’t want to do this. It will cost too much. All of these improvements make life easier for the customer. All of them make life harder for the corporation. Thus it’s really a question of whose interests come first. A lot of companies say they’re customer-focused, but who really is? Who walks the walk and who only talks the talk? How much spam a company sends with every message is a really good way to find out.