Third party post-purchase research emails: spam?

My wife and I were lucky enough to be able to purchase a new car earlier this year. It's a nice car and we love it. But ever since then, seemingly once a month or so, I get a survey request related to automobiles and the automotive industry. Some from known entities, some from unknown entities. A number of them are coming from third parties that I didn't specifically hand my email address to.

The anti-spammer in me tells me that these emails are spam. Somebody I don't recognize is sending me list mail or bulk mail, to an address that I did not give to them.

But when talking with clients or potential clients I have had a lot of them try to tell me that this kind of mail is expected and that it's not spam.

For the moment, forget about who's right or wrong here.

Consider this: Just about all of those surveys have gone to my Gmail spam folder, including the most recent one. Why? Poor sender reputation, I think. Why? I would guess that perhaps I am not the only one questioning why I'm receiving mail from somebody I didn't give my email address to. I didn't report this mail as spam, but it sure looks like enough other people are reporting this sender's mail as spam and thus, making it near impossible for them to reliably get to the inbox.

That's the practical consideration. Not whether or not you think what you're doing is legal or expected or common or necessary; what recipients think is given greater weight. Enough weight that it can bog down your sender reputation.

That's why a mail stream or marketing program or survey program probably just doesn't work without clear cut permission. Regardless of what you think is right or wrong, your opinion (and my opinion) is only a tiny part of the equation.

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