If you are running an email marketing campaign you will get an angry email or spam report every so often. It’s unavoidable. Even the best campaigns with the most stringent regulations on avoiding being identified as SPAM get them. Don’t take the messages personally, it’s not an attack on you as a person. If you’re running a responsible email campaign it’s usually either a misunderstanding, forgetfullness, or laziness that results in the SPAM reports or unhappy email.
Misunderstandings and forgetfulness are the most common. People just don’t remember asking for the email or accidently move it to a SPAM folder or report. The action item here is to ensure that you were clear on what they would get. As an example, some companies will have a jar for business cards at an event to win a prize. They never actually tell people that they will start sending them a company newsletter when they submit their name. While I think having an opt-in list at an event is a great idea, not being direct about opting them in to an email list risks getting angry replies and SPAM reports. There’s no reason not to let people know that you’d like to send them email newsletters and updates. Let them say no to begin with, this just keeps us from wasting time getting communications to people who don’t want it.
However, I have witnessed upset recipients that knew exactly what they were opting in for. They just forgot, or decided they didn’t want it between signing up and receiving the email. Either way, they carry the blame. The most blatant and confusing example I’ve seen of this was someone that had signed up for a double opt in list (meaning he proactively put in his information, received an email saying, “We received your request, please click to confirm you want it.”) The emails he received were newsletter content and not overly advertising driven. Upon receiving the third email 6 weeks after signing up he wrote an angry email demanding to be removed and threatening legal action. This is simply a case of someone looking to lash out. While this is an extreme case, it’s going to happen. Don’t start second guessing your campaign based on these random reactions. If you are following CAN-SPAM compliance and offering communications that the vast majority of your audience is pleased to receive, the problem is with the recipient, not your messages.
Of course, it’s not wise to communicate that to the angry individual. The best policy is to get them off the list and apologize if necessary. Only 1 person in a hundred will want more than to be removed and I’ve never seen that one person demand more than a short apology. Even the man above was satisfied with being removed and was not a problem beyond that.
The other group is the lazy group. Unfortunately, many people don’t really understand what SPAM is. They think any message from someone they don’t personally know is SPAM. Of course everyone has the right to unsubscribe from a campaign if they no longer get value out of it. The problem is that some ISP’s make it too easy to lodge a SPAM complaint. AOL users account for a much larger percentage of SPAM complaints than other email users because the service actually makes it easier to log a SPAM complaint than to use most unsubscribe mechanisms. This is just a sad combination of ignorance and laziness. Again it isn’t a true reflection on what the campaign is offering, it’s just a matter of poor circumstances coming together to give a negative impression.
The point is, don’t overreact to these negative influences. They will happen no matter how responsible you are. One angry person can put a negative feeling on your email marketing. Remember if the vast majority are happy, it’s probably a case of circumstances working against you in some way. Don’t take it personally and continue growing and developing your campaign. In the end, it’s hard to blame people. I find myself getting upset if I have to sort through SPAM. In fact, today I accidentally marked a legitimate comment as SPAM on my blog because I had 370 SPAM messages. It was an honest mistake and not a true reflection on the poster or my feelings toward the poster. Did I go back and remove my SPAM tag? Yes, but many people you send to don’t have the time or technical knowledge to do so. Certainly you always have to gauge the reaction to your email marketing and should see a majority of happy recipients. If that’s the case don’t overreact or get demotivated by the vocal or ignorant detractors. They’ve probably either made a mistake or simply forgotten the reason to get your email. They won’t be scarred by the experience and will certainly move on, be sure you do too.