Back in 2003, President George W. Bush passed the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act, that was meant to establish standards when it came to commercial email and help protect consumers from errant businesses filling email inboxes with their crud.

While well-intentioned in its creation, unfortunately its been much less effective when it comes to actually making marketers and promotional companies any better at respecting the wishes of those they seek to target.

This, despite specific instructions as to what can and can’t be done by these marketers:

  • There must be a visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism present in all emails;
  • A message can’t be sent without an UnSubscribe option;
  • A message cannot be sent to a harvested email address;
  • A message should contain at least one sentence.

There are many more do’s and don’ts attached to the CAN-SPAM Act, but for this post, I’m highlighting these four in particular, since it’s clear Haworth Marketing + Media don’t really care about them.

Poor Pitch or Ignorance of CAN-SPAM?

I received this email from Haworth yesterday (click image below to expand).

Haworth email pitch

I’ve blurred out the name of the person sending, as it appears they’re in a more junior role and have been tasked with sending out this pitch by an account manager or more senior person.

As you can see, it ignores all the points of the CAN-SPAM Act I referenced: there’s no unsubscribe option, I don’t recall ever signing up for updates from Haworth, and there’s no sentence – not even a single one – within the email body itself.

Instead, as you can see by the red highlighted box, there’s an attachment that I’m meant to trust, download and open – all from a source I don’t know and have never asked to know (to the best of my recollection).

Quite the winning pitch…

It Doesn’t Need to be This Way

The fact that Haworth sent this out like this is disappointing enough. It shows a lack of understanding of what makes a good blogger outreach program. It’s not as if there aren’t enough reference points, either.

Posts like this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or… you get the picture. And that’s just on this blog.

There are countless other posts, articles, and more, on what makes a blogger outreach campaign work. Just Google “blogger outreach tips” and you’ll get around a million results, with excellent advice to be found here, here, here and here, just for starters.

Haworth themselves claim to understand what makes a promotional campaign work. In their own words:

Our differentiation comes from changing the conversation in media; through inspired media design and thoughtful collaboration with communication partners, we generate impactful, lasting impressions that translate into deep, emotional connections.

Having said that, when you dig a little more into their site and look at their client services, they don’t offer blogger outreach as part of their solutions. They do offer content marketing, but not blogger outreach specifically – so perhaps the email approach I received shouldn’t be a surprise after all.

Which is a shame. Bloggers are an increasingly important part of any online marketing or promotional component for today’s brands – just ask Martha Stewart about that point.

Educate Yourself Now or Be Left Behind

As shared throughout this post, there are a ton of resources around to ensure you craft the right type of approach for your campaign – one that will bring a better result than being criticized by the person you’re trying to engage with.

  • Respect the CAN-SPAM Act in its entirety (I requested removal from Haworth’s list after a previously dubious email, to no avail);
  • Don’t send attachments without prior acceptance and a description of what the attachment is;
  • Don’t fob off your email blasts to a junior employee, thus relieving yourself of any responsibility when called out;
  • Educate your marketing/promotional staff on company expectations (hint: these shouldn’t be the example used for this post);
  • Read publications and blogs that speak of this increasingly important outreach outlet, and understand the nuances it needs.

Yes, it will be a pain to make the switch and, yes, it might even mean you refocusing on areas you had been loosely paying attention to before.

But, as “old media” – traditional ads, TV and radio spend, etc – begin to see their effectiveness eaten up by newer media, particularly by bloggers with a relevant audience, taking the approach of sending out a blast email with nothing but an attachment is just a poor promotional decision.

Especially when it’s effectively breaking the law…

image: Max Bisschop

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14 comments
Rishikesh Somshetti
Rishikesh Somshetti

Marketers might be ignoring CAN-SPAM but gmail, yahoo have equipped end users with 'This is SPAM' button. The penalty that marketers pay for pushing unwanted mails result in non-deliveries of mails to genuine ids (yahoo 421 error). gmail directing mails to SPAM folder. I addition to that the Sending domain/IP reputation goes down. Over time marketers are evolving and understanding these issues. Few bad campaigns hit them hard on all accounts and then they realize the importance of double opt-in, CAN SPAM etc.

Belinda Summers (@belindasummers)
Belinda Summers (@belindasummers)

This is not just about poor strategy that we're talking to rather a backfire to the company itself. Spamming might give drastic change, well, it might increase your ROI but it's temporary. It's important that we look to more long term strategy and that's include abiding the law. :)

Fritz Fritzberg From Fritzbergia
Fritz Fritzberg From Fritzbergia

I never knew there was such a law. To me it was the ethical thing to do and I have always been a huge champion of Opt In/Opt Out in general. Pre-Smartphone the SMS Text body where you bought your codes from actually promoted 'Once they opt in you have 24/7 access to reach them on their phones' I think the main reason for omission is the feeling your email or content wouldn't survive past that initial 'sure I will sign up and check it out' stage.

Ivan Widjaya
Ivan Widjaya

These people are the culprits for e-mail blindness. Nowadays people rarely open their e-mails. It is no longer as 'engaging' as it used to be because people know that almost every e-mail sender has one thing in mind - to close a sale. E-mails generally have better turnouts if the credibility is established even before the e-mail is sent.

Rob Biesenbach
Rob Biesenbach

I was just writing about this the other day. When I started my email list, like everyone else I had a network of friends, colleagues, clients, etc., in my email address book, on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. And it was very tempting to add people to the list who I "knew" would be interested in the content by virtue of their profession or our relationship. But I listened to the advice to never add anyone who hasn't specifically opted in. And yet every day I get added to the lists of friends and business contacts without my permission. Sometimes I feel like a chump. On the other hand, though my list is relatively small, my open and click-through rates are well above "the average" (if the averages are right). We'll see if the moral high ground is the better place to be, business-wise ...

Melanie Kissell
Melanie Kissell

Hi Danny IF ONLY there were consequences, severe enough, to put a complete stop to the plethora of spam we encounter every day. If only. I used to waste my precious time contacting these unsavory folks -- in hopes of setting them straight. I soon figured out it was an effort in futility. Spammers are a breed of their own, Danny, in a league of their own, in a world all their own. Simply put, they don't play by the rules and they don't care. Thanks for the link to the Martha Stewart piece. Oy. What a tangled web she's weaving! :(

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

The fact alone that you have to type the sentence: "A message should contain at least one sentence." makes me embarrassed for some people.

Melody @ Canadians Internet Business
Melody @ Canadians Internet Business

I don't understand why they bother if they're not going to do it right, especially when it will have the opposite effect. Do they get up and say, "The Internet is where it's at. I think I'll send an email to Danny Brown and make myself look bad"? If I'm pitching, I'm actually nervous about the approach. I prepare. I research the site. I follow guidelines. I obsess over compliance. I'm polite and professional. I even use a capital letter at the beginning of sentences (my personal guest post pitch pet peeve). Everything you need to learn about a proper, professional approach is online. There's simply no excuse.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Having watched Toronto's Mayor get away with breaking the law and remain in office, I'm beginning to think Canada's a little lax in this area... ;-)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

The problem is, many companies don't care about ethics when it comes to the bottom line, hence the ignorance of things like CAN-SPAM. Ironically, the opt-in ratios are usually always higher - so why do brand still miss this? Hey ho.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Yeah, the farming of emails bothers me, mate. Heck, it's more than 10 years since Seth Godin's Permission Marketing, and yet here we still are. With regards the click rates, I've found the same as you so far. I primarily use the subscribe option on here for blog updates, but now and again I'll send a blast out for a promo, or favour, and more often than not, the click rate is good. It may be that it's luck - but I'd like to think it's more to do with sending to an audience that's already receptive, and you live up to the promise of no spam. Here's to ethics winning the day, mate.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Yeah, I'm with you on that - usually, I'll just hit the Spam option and hope enough others do the same to put their email address on a block list. This one was in a class of its own for badness, though. ;-)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

It's kinda sad when your comment is longer. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

What's particularly disappointing about this example, Melody, is that I'd already sent an email advising I hadn't signed up, pointing out the non-unsubscribe option, and to remove me. Then I get this one. Hmm, on second thoughts, maybe you're right and it was their intention to make themselves look bad... ;-)

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