"Stamps (remember those?) make direct mail work," says Seth Godin in a post at his blog. "Because it costs money to send a piece of junk mail, you'll think two or three times before you mail something to a million people." And how.

But because they think of email as "free," some companies aren't as circumspect about email campaigns. They're less likely to weigh the value of an offer, and more likely to hit "send" on any old thing.

One such retailer raised Godin's ire in two ways:

  1. Using an opt-out policy to build its email list
  2. Sending him an offer for diapers

"I've never purchased diapers online, since my diaper purchases predate online diaper shopping," he explains. "And my hope is that I won't be buying Depends for another fifty years or so. Drugstore.com should know this. And yet, because it's apparently free to email me, some lame brand-manager says, 'sure, do it!'"

The ultimate cost of irrelevant email campaigns can be far greater than the postage spent on a direct mail piece. According to Godin, they:

  • Cause hard-earned subscribers to unsubscribe
  • Train recipients to ignore you
  • Create negative word-of-mouth

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