Every so often when I go through my email inbox, the amount of unwanted stuff strikes me as being unreasonable. So I sit down and unsubscribe from various emails. Some I remember signing up for, and think it’s a shame that they didn’t prove to be as interesting as I’d obviously hoped at the time. With others. I can’t think of any reason why I would ever have requested them. If I’m absolutely certain I never signed up to receive them, I might even hit “spam”. And that’s bad news for the sender, because that information works its way back to the spam filtering companies. You do not want to be on their lists.
The other problem for these unrequested emails is that I have a simmering resentment towards their senders. I know that I once sent off for a brochure about The Blue Widget Company’s products, but it was an unusual requirement, and I wouldn’t have asked for ongoing information from them. I find The Blue Widget Company rather annoying, because of that. And worse, I’m regularly reminded of how annoying I find them, every time another email turns up.
This is why it’s nothing short of completely stupid, in 2013, to add people to your email distribution lists without asking them first. Sure, if 150 people came on to your stand at WidgetEx and you scanned their details, it’s reasonable to email them and offer them your regular newsletter. But it’s not a good idea to just add them to your lists on the basis that they presented themselves to you, so now you can abuse that relationship at will.
Email those 150 people with an offer to join your circulation, and you might get 30 new readers, most of whom will open your future emails. Put all 150 on circulation without asking and you’ll miss out on some of those real quality 30, because a lot of people simply won’t open an unrequested newsletter. Sure, you might get a few curious readers from the other 120 who wouldn’t have requested to hear from you. But that’ll probably be short-lived. And it’ll pale into insignificance compared to the potential 150 lots of “simmering resentment” you’re introducing.
To summarise in a way that even your CEO will understand, a list of 30 prospects who want to hear from you is better than a 150-strong list containing 30 who want to hear from you and 120 who don’t. The other 120 aren’t a “free extra”, they’re a potential liability, and any fluke response from them is not worth the risk.