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e-business: What made me unsubscribe to Tomlinson's unsubscribe rule.

Byline: Chris Tomlinson

It is every man's right to unsubscribe. Most e-marketeers forget this when bombarding the Net with their junk mail.

Many also forget that under European legislation, it is also illegal to send unsolicited e-mails. Although what counts as solicited seems to be left to their own interpretation.

'You were once foolish enough to leave your real e-mail address on your web site, so now we are friends for life', seems to be the most common definition.

Companies have resorted to this pushy behaviour because they got tired of waiting for people to visit their web sites. They have given up on the search engines as a means of attracting traffic, because the bandit that told them he could make them number one in Google has long since left for the Bahamas, with their money.

But their beautifully crafted e-mails are like insignificant snowflakes in a blizzard raging around our in-boxes. Most of us take the only sensible course left open to us and delete all emails without opening them unless we recognise the sender's address.

In some respect these electronic newsletters and alike are more of a pain than spam, as they are usually html e-mails heavy with graphics. What essentially separates them from the Viagra and porn merchants is the fact you have some tenuous prior relationship with their perpetrators and they have, most importantly, an unsubscribe button.

If you are sending out bulk e-mails without a working unsubscribe facility you are a spammer and you need to go and re-evaluate your life.

To complicate the issue further, many out-and-out spammers will also include an unsubscribe option in their junk mail. Do not click on it. This will confirm to them they have found a real human being at the end of, what might have been, a disused address and they are likely to step up their attempts to sell you 'XXX college girl action'.

Of course, maintaining an address database with only genuinely solicited recipients and an automatic system for people to unsubscribe involves a lot of IT: an expense many are not prepared to commit to.

But direct marketing is a percentage game. Conventional wisdom will tell you to expect only one per cent of a paper mail shot to turn into real business. The other 99 per cent will end up in the bin.

At least electronically, by offering an effective unsubscribe service and refining your database, you stand a good change of improving on that.

However, given there are no print or posting costs, most perpetrators seem to be working the percentage game from the other end, by randomly spraying their e-mails across all of humanity. I had come to the conclusion that direct on-line marketing was a complete waste of time. Until last week that is, when a special offer arrived in my inbox, coincidentally offering a deal on some software I was about to buy from another source.

I made the purchase and rather disappointingly proved myself wrong.

Chris is managing director of WebXpress. . This and previous unedited articles can be found at
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 17, 2003
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