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The Importance of Relevance: A Cautionary Tale

January 11, 2012  

"Today I was sad," writes Tara Jacobsen at the Marketing Artfully blog. "I got a message from someone who I like a lot and have been 'friends' with on the Internet for a while."

The problem? Unlike the steady stream of relevant content the business friend used to distribute, this email was yet another in a string of irrelevant affiliate marketing messages.

Jacobsen's patience had worn thin. She considered—and decided against—three common options facing disgruntled subscribers:

  • Unsubscribing. While this would remove the irritating affiliate messages from her inbox, it would also eliminate the sometimes-good content.
  • Complaining. She refrained from expressing her displeasure in a "scathing email with lots of caps and exclamation points" because her friend is free to run his business as he likes.
  • Venting. Social media provides an easy outlet for frustration, but Jacobsen sees this all too frequently—and understands what it's like to be on the receiving end of a diatribe.

So what did she do? She set a rule that diverts this friend's email from her inbox and sends it straight to a "Marketing People" folder she browses through when she has the time. "[H]e went from a trusted source of information to someone who will never see the light of day again," she notes. "While I will see his info on Facebook, he will not have the ability to contact me directly anymore."

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  • by Paul Toschi Wed Jan 11, 2012 via web

    I try to keep to the 90/10 rule. For every nine good, helpful, relevant, value-adding comments or posts, I put out one "affiliate marketing message", and I don't make it a personal "Hey, Tara, you need to check this out, it did blah blah yadda yadda". That's abuse of a friendship. Cut to the chase. "I've researched this product and think that it's good value. I use it myself (be truthful!). If you'd like to get good information on SEO, get a copy of Whiz-bang SEO here."
    I'd appreciate your comments on this approach. How would you feel if you were on the receiving end?

  • by HaUDoin Wed Jan 11, 2012 via web

    Great article, this happened to me yesterday. All good points.

  • by Kelsey Brookes Wed Jan 11, 2012 via web

    @Paul - I think Tara would probably say that provided you ensure 90% of your content remained meaningful and relevant, you wouldn't wind up relegated to her 'marketing bin of shame'.

    But you never know - these things have a cumulative effect on our psyche and I've certainly consigned otherwise useful mail to the sin bin for the same reasons.

  • by Kivi Leroux Miller Wed Jan 11, 2012 via web

    This is where I've found custom unsub links to be very helpful. I try to group everything we send out into a handful of categories and to use the right unsub link code, including one for what I call "Occasional Specials" - that way when people click the link they can pick to get off that kind of email or all email. The system we use then tags them a certain way so we can exclude them for additional mailings of that kind. It's a little more work on our part to keep it straight, but it's kept a ton of people on our main email newsletter list who just wanted to stop getting "special offers".

  • by Liz Wood Thu Jan 12, 2012 via web

    I definitely agree that you can't rely on unsubscribe and rant rates alone to measure effectiveness. If your open rates and click rates aren't good - your subscribers have tuned you out.

    @Paul, I appreciate your commitment not to "mass personalize"! I am totally sick of seeing it in my inbox and from clients I have worked with. Most email marketers don't actually segment their list to send relevant offers/content. So the "I hand selected this offer just for you!" is ingenuine and people are aware of that.

    @Kivi has the right idea so people can still get the info they want.

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