Challenge Emails: ‘Go Away. We Don’t Want You.’

“Stay in touch?” That was the headline on an email I got today from the folks at Pitney Bowes. What was notable, however, was the first line of copy: “We notice it’s been a while since you opened an email from us …” I honestly can’t decide if this is a strategic insight gone awry, or a little creepy.

“Stay in touch?” That was the headline on a challenge email I got today from the folks at Pitney Bowes. What was notable, however, was the first line of copy: “We notice it’s been a while since you opened an email from us …” I honestly can’t decide if this is a strategic insight gone awry, or a little creepy.

Email open rates are a misunderstood analytics tool; take a minute and follow my logic:

  • According to Campaign Monitor, the most popular email client is Outlook. And, according to MarketingSherpa, over 50 percent of consumers use a preview feature to view emails.
  • Nearly 40 percent of email clients block images by default.
  • Conclusion: If you read your email via preview pane (or not), and don’t download the images, your “open” is not being recorded as an “open” and in this instances, that seems to make Momma a very bad girl.

Bottom line is this: Pitney Bowes really doesn’t know whether I am reading their emails or not. They’ve assumed I am NOT since I am not downloading the images contained in their emails. And, it seems, they believe I am not reading their “valuable information about supplies, offers, discounts, new products and thought leadership pieces.”

If I wasn’t opening/reading them before, they’ve certainly given me a good reason to unsubscribe now. Like many companies, Pitney Bowes needs to stop thinking their marketing messages need to be about THEM, and start thinking about what might be deemed interesting (and therefore valuable) to ME.

Funnily enough, the last email I got from Pitney Bowes two weeks earlier, was another little smack across the hand for my apparent bad behavior. The subject line “Don’t miss out” didn’t compel me to even open that email, but the message was even worse! They noted that it had been a while since they had heard from me—Really? It’s not like we were corresponding or anything—and they wanted to know if I was still interested in getting emails from them. I had to confirm my interest by July 15 in order to “continue receiving the latest from PB.”

Needless to say I didn’t open nor respond; but that didn’t stop them from sending this weeks’ email to me.

In a world where businesses spend an inordinate amount of time (and money!) trying to collect email addresses for ongoing engagement with their customers, PB seems to want to sever the ties with me. And all because I’m (apparently) not opening their email messages.

I think the good folks in PB marketing need this little wake up call: While I appreciate that you think I’m not reading your emails and therefore may no longer be interested in your products/services/thought leadership pieces, you might want to wait for me to unsubscribe. Or better yet, try sending me emails with content that is actually of value to me and my organization. Oh, and here’s a hint: Don’t make that content about YOUR products/services.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

8 thoughts on “Challenge Emails: ‘Go Away. We Don’t Want You.’”

  1. PB is making a mistake in assuming that just because you haven’t been opening their e-mails that you are no longer interested in EVER buying from them again. Never assume that customers who have (apparantly) wandered off will never want to do business with you again. Plus, what could be cheaper than e-mail?

  2. Great comments on the PB email you received. I received the exact same ones and felt the same way. I can’t think of the last time an email message from any vendor/retailer asked me, "How can we help you? Or, what’s on your mind? Or, do you have a problem that we might be able to help you solve?" Talbots emails are pretty good and Ariba Discovery emails are headed in the right direction + they actually call you and want to talk to you. Thanks for the great article on this.

  3. Even though you were offended by PB’s actions, they were just following the recommendations of other experts in the email marketing field. My email service provider suggests that you contact subscribers who haven’t opened emails in a long time to see if they still want your content, and if you don’t get a response, you can weed out those addresses. You are correct in admonishing PB to send you good quality content. But it’s in PB’s interest too to send content to clients who are interested in what they have to say, and not to ones who don’t.

  4. You missed a very serious problem if the preview mode was to make the e-mail as read and that is scammer’s would know you looked at their e-mail.

  5. Gloria: Thank you for your comments, but I’m not sure who those "experts" are that you reference, and I stand firm on my points.

    Instead of "weeding out" subscribers, I would recommend marketers spend their energy trying to determine what inspired the recipient to subscribe in the first place, and then try to replicate on those implied promises of content/information/offers.

    In my experience,most brand marketers don’t have a long-term vision about what they’re going to do with subscribers, so they tweak messaging to try and increase their opt-in numbers to meet a specific opt-in objective. And this is precisely where the problem starts. PB’s behavior demonstrates how this opt-in goal/strategy is a misstep to longer-term customer engagement and brand evangelism.

  6. Pitney Bowes is committed to listening to our customers across multiple channels, both physical and digital, to ensure we are meeting their needs, but mistakes happen. We are very sorry this correspondence fell short of our intention. Karin Doherty, Marketing Communications, Pitney Bowes

  7. Loved this article! Got an Email from some company recently where the copy ‘presumed’ to know what my situation was. It was ALL ABOUT THEM. I happily unsubscribed. Even Political support groups have under 25 year old managing email accounts that think if you haven’t ‘performed’ to their expectations they have the right to interrogate you as to why! So arrogant…and annoying. Thanks again.

  8. It’s amazing how many major corporations still just don’t get it! Folks, it’s about engaging me, not selling to me. And they get the big bucks why?

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