Okay, well maybe it’s been a long time since I’ve heard Donna Summer on the radio, but lately I’ve been hearing radio advertisements for publically-traded entry-level ESP, Constant Contact.  The ad states that the first 60 days of service are free with programs starting for as little as $15 per month.  At first I wasn’t sure what to think about radio ads for an ESP…. 

On one hand, for only $180 a year my mother could forward jokes to her email list of family and friends without sharing my address with her list and anyone they might forward the message to.  My friend, Rick, in Venice Beach could more easily manage and segment lists of friends and neighbors that enjoy his antique and collector car messages from those interested in his take on local happenings.  That could be really cool for those and others in the same situation.

On the other hand, while the thought of a consumer market for email tools is an interesting concept, the ad isn’t targeted to my mother or friend, Rick.  No, the tone of the ads are basically, “anybody can send email and make money”.

The SoCal radio station where I heard the ad has cumes of at least 250,000.  If just 1% of that 250k listening for that 15 minutes in time takes the radio offer daily, that’s a total of 17,500 a week.  If 50% of that 17,500 took the $15 per month program, that’s over $130,000 of new business each week for Constant Contact. 

While a real boon for them, and I’m sure something that they dream about, what impact will that bevy of amateurs entering the playing field do to your Inbox efforts?  How many of them have even read, Email Marketing for Dummies?  After all, the author heads up the Constant Contact University!  Wouldn’t you think that before anyone with a credit card could start mailing-for-money, an ESP with its own University would maybe have some sort of test before turning neophytes loose with a loaded email tool?

The questions don’t have to be tough, after all.  I know!  Let’s take a question from a recent post by the Director of Constant Contact University….  The esteemed Director suggests sending a survey to new subscribers in the first email they receive.  While I prefer to welcome someone new to the program before interviewing them, others may prefer a more aggressive approach.  Whatever….  The question goes to timing rather than content, anyway…. 

So, how soon should a first message be sent to the new subscriber?  If you said “within minutes” you’d be wrong.  According to the author of Email Marketing for Dummies, posted in November of 2008, 1 to 2 days is how long you should wait before sending the subscriber a first message.  Seriously!?

I’m sure that Constant Contact will vigorously enforce their Terms & Conditions for all of these new customers, but how much damage can be done before that enforcement kicks in?  How many Constant Contact shared IP addresses are going to get trashed by spammers taking advantage of a marketing loophole?  Spammers aside, what about the Dummies? 

But I’m torn….  I’m not sure if I should be pissed off that Constant Contact has no respect for professional email marketers, pissed off that these idiots would trash the industry where we all – including them – make our living, or if I should sign my mother up.

I think that mom is going to stick with sharing my email address with her friends.  At least I get to receive her emails now and nobody on her list or list’s lists have been spamming me with get-rich-quick schemes or MLM offers. 

But what about the professional email marketers?  Those of us that put a lot of blood, sweat, and years into the practice?  Well, it had better be a wake-up call to get real relevant and real engaging real soon, because you could be competing with 17,500 amateurs before you know it….