Here’s how not to do email marketing

I started the week, raving about how TiE did a good job of leveraging WOM in email marketing. It’s ironic that I am ending the week with a stunning example of how NOT to do email marketing.

To say that I’ve never been a big fan of Sears is an understatement. In my haste to find the best bargain exercise equipment, I managed to get suckered into signing up for their credit card. They have a few good people in their stores, but their processes and (phone) customer service are terrible.  It takes hours to get anything resolved or even a basic question answered. If you sign up for their credit card, rest assured, you will be on a gazillion telemarketing and mailing lists. So when I got this email from them, needless to say, I was very ticked off. Sears  

Who the heck is Donna Robinson? I knew that it couldn’t be spoof, because even scamsters would have atleast gotten my name right. A few minutes later, I got an apology email claiming that this was indeed a legitimate email.

We apologize for the confusion this may have caused and want to assure you that the email is a legitimate Sears card email.

If you have any questions, please call the Customer Service number on the back of your card.

I don’t get it. It’s bad enough that they spammed with someone else’s name, but why not provide a #800 number in the follow up email for me to call them? I am already irate, why make it worse by making me hunt for their phone number? The email also had the last 4 digits of my card number, so that raises even more concerns about privacy and identity theft. But there were no reassurances forthcoming from the (obviously) hastily crafted email.

This highlights yet another reason why I don’t give two hoots about what technology or super-duper tool companies use to do their online marketing, there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned doing-it-right-the-first-time. And if you get it wrong, own it and fix it. And ‘fix it doesn’t mean a shoddy email.

In the Silicon Valley bubblesphere, we’re always evangelizing the latest and greatest technologies and tools. All of which are useless, if companies are still struggling with the basics – you know, like getting their customer’s name right.


I just read Seth Godin’s post on how someone from Forbes spammed him and didn’t even pretend it was a personal note. Here are his thoughts on spam,

The end result of spam (email spam, blog spam, Twitter spam, Squidoo spam, comment spam, phone spam, politician spam) is that it eats away at your brand. If you don’t have a brand, you might make some short term cash but it gets tiresome creating annoyance everywhere you go. If you do have a brand, a brand like Forbes, say, you don’t notice the brand erosion… until it’s too late.


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