Seth Godin compares and contrasts two different email campaigns he’s received. One is a opt-in campaign that is highly relevant to him. The other is spam, sent to two “discovered” email addresses. The whole post is very good, but there are a couple things he said that bear repeating.
There are a hundred ways to skulk around, to collect email addresses, to write clever privacy policies or to argue about whether opt-out (“you can always unsubscribe!”) is a valid way to build a brand. None of those schemes work. What works is exactly one way: making promises and then keeping them. Every person who unsubscribes or deletes or just stops reading your mail is a person lost, a negative word-of-mouth opportunity waiting to happen. [...]
A spam campaign feels like a smart idea, but over time, the more you use it, the less your brand is worth. A permission campaign, on the other hand, only grows in value, until it gets big enough that you can build an entire business around it.
Long term value for a email marketing program comes from sending relevant wanted mail. Sending mail people didn’t ask for and don’t want damages a brand. All the semantics in the world doesn’t change the fact that recipients don’t like or trust a sender.
Permission and relevance don’t just impact a sender’s reputation with end users. Many large ISPs listen very closely to their users when creating reputation metrics. Poor reputation with end users results in poor reputation and consequently poor delivery. Some senders attempt to argue with ISPs that their mail can’t be spam for any number of reasons. But the determination if a mail is or is not spam is not for either the sender to make. And if a recipient thinks that Brand X is spamming them that will negatively impact that brand.