One day in mid-June, I received over 150 emails. One was from my wife. Twenty or so were from clients and colleagues. There might be one from my dentist in there too, but I lost track.

But then there’s the balance; some 130 unsolicited emails.

A quick look at the subject lines from these emails is as bewildering as it is disturbing. Bewildering because the flow is incessant. Disturbing because most of these email solicitations are grossly mis-targeted (Really? Estrogen pills?).

Consider: Private jet rentals (I need to admit that this is appealing). Hair transplants (Less appealing). Hair plugs (Even less appealing). Russian brides (I’m married). Ukrainian brides (Still married). Credit checks. Background checks. Preventing bad checks. IRS audit. Coupons from Wal-Mart, iTunes, the Cheesecake Factory (Nearest one is 100 miles away). Dell (I’m typing this on an HP). The truth about dogfood (Not sure I want to know this). Window shades. New vinyl (I’m assuming they mean for my house). Web marketing today. DelTek. MeetingsNet. NYTimes. Ticketmaster. B2B funding. Google alert. Google alert. Google alert. Google alert (I get about 30 of these a day). Hair Care (I guess the plugs must have worked). Technocel. Diversified search. Mesothelioma watch. Urgent – Money transfer. Linda home help. GNC manhood booster. Kitchen Aid samples. All inclusive vacations. Media buyer and planner. Your body transformation. The SCUP scan. iPad liquidation sale. NYC television week (I live in Iowa). Einstein brain pill. Digital Signage Weekly. AV technology. Savoy contract furniture. Prostate cancer information (My administrative assistant gets this one, too. Her name is Sandra). Home surveillance cameras. iPad alert. Background check alert. Expedia Travel deals. Delta. Orbitz journey. Cheap airfares. Door camera is watching (What door? What camera?). RA Fitness. Jet rentals. Proformative webinars. Save on your mortgage. Lock low rates. AARP discounts (Sadly, this one is increasingly applicable). Summer window replacements (Are there winter window replacements? Do I need replacements for each season?). Robb High. Kroger shopping gift card. Better phone systems. Russell Adams. Russell Perkins. Harvard Health Journal. Innocent fun. Outback coupons. End ringing ears. Windows installation notice (Not sure if this is software or something about house windows. I’m really starting to worry about my windows). Your job search (Didn’t know I was searching. Do they know something I don’t?). Apple iPhone tool (I have a new Droid). Walgreens online voucher. Final cut pro insider. Amazon award points. iBooks. Fitbit. CVS card rewards. Test Elizabeth Arden. Dads MacBook memories (Again, HP). Brain booster. Your personal proposition. Bosley hair loss. Taylormade warehouse overstock (I don’t golf, but if they sell torque wrenches count me in). Apple iPhone keyboard (Again, Droid). Beautiful garage. Critical thinking pill. Your online records. Survive last days. Xbox secret shopper (I don’t have an Xbox, but my son had a Game Boy once, but that was about 20 years ago). Sears oil change. Best Buy award points. Triple score today. Ace credit. Brand channel. Pep Boys oil voucher (There are no Pep Boys in Iowa). Your tinnitus cure. No fail woodworking. Samsung liquidation. Fitness for women (I passed this one on to Sandra). Prevent heart attacks. Survive an attack (Bears? Mosquitos? Velociraptors? People selling windows on the Internet?). Summer roofing quotes (Evidently roofs have seasons, too). Melt away body fat. Sparkbreaks webinar. Eye sight saver. Love your body. Senior car. Solar department deals. GNC testo deal (What the heck is a “testo?” Opps, duh, I think I know what it might mean). AMADC. Belize vacations.

It is important to know that almost every email was received in duplicate with minor changes. Most of these changes are limited to the subject line.

And yes, my spam filters are on.

In fact, I asked Dave, one of our IT guys, how many emails our spam filters snag each day. He said they snag an average of 27,774 unsolicited emails in a 24 hour period.

It is also important to know that I have tried block sender without success (a big part of me thinks this just makes them even more determined).

Unfortunately for them, it also makes me more irritated.

But I’m not only irritated, I’m worried. I’m worried that I will delete or overlook something important as I sift through the detritus as quickly as possible.

This means that each day I need to dig through an overwhelming and growing pile of garbage looking for a ham sandwich.

It has gotten to the point where I dread opening my email.

But perhaps what makes me the most nervous, is that the college-bound daughters and sons of friends of mine have the same problem, and reaction.

They are desperately tired of being pummeled by colleges and universities with which they have no prior relationship and no real interest.

So it is to the colleges and universities that target these students that I write and offer three involute rules that should guide their outbound marketing.

First, your emails should be an extension of an existing and deepening relationship. For traditional college students this relationship should begin in middle school or even earlier.

Second, your emails must focus on the interests of the prospective student. This means deep understanding. Oddly, their interest must precede your interest.

Third, your email strategy must be part of a larger marketing communication strategy that includes social media, traditional media, and even special events.

Colleges and universities love outbound email because it is relatively cheap. Not following these rules, however, may well mean that outbound email becomes your most expensive form of marketing because of the ill will it will cause.

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3 Comments
  1. Mark

    Bob, this is an excellent post that squarely puts this dichotomous problem in clear perspective! Thanks for taking the time to capture this contemporary issue creatively with your signature wit!

    I hope you are doing well.

    Mark Danes, UND

  2. Bob

    Thanks Mark. This is one that sort of wrote itself. Bob

  3. Great post Bob! Another great example of why research is so important.

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