And It’s Necessary and Good

It’s a common refrain among veterans at email marketing conferences: “I feel like we’ve been talking about the same things over and over for years.”

A colleague has likened email-marketing conferences to Grateful Dead shows: “The same people following each other from city to city to hear the same stuff over and over. All we’re missing are magic mushrooms.”

At least the performances are coherent and the attendees have steady jobs.

And, of course, there are the inevitable comparisons to the classic movie Groundhog Day, in which television reporter Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, experiences the same day over and over until he finally gets it right.

Well, the same topics are discussed repeatedly at email-marketing conferences, and in webinars and trade articles. What’s more, the topics discussed repeatedly are often pretty basic stuff. For example: the benefits of list segmentation vs. sending to the whole file, the risks of buying email lists and what the heck is Spamhaus and why do they have so much power?

The reason for this seemingly never-ending repetition is because the same questions have been coming up in these venues for two decades. Run a webinar on any email-marketing related topic and someone will ask: “Where can I buy email lists?”

The short answer to that question, of course is: “All over the Internet but nowhere safely.”

Invariably, the person asking the list-buying question is new to the industry, as is usually the case with people unaware of Spamhaus or the arguments surrounding segmentation vs. so-called batch-and-blast email marketing.

There is a constant stream of new people coming into the permission-based email-marketing industry and they all have the same questions. And they all deserve thoughtful, respectful answers.

“When I grow up, I want to become an email marketer” said no one ever. It’s safe to say most people who end up in email marketing stumbled there by happy accident.

Email is also arguably the most powerful marketing channel and at the same time the most quirky.

We shouldn’t be surprised when some newbie asks: “You mean to tell me a former roadie for Pink Floyd who lives in an undisclosed location in Europe and some volunteers run a black list that can prevent most of my email from reaching people’s inboxes and it’s perfectly legal and there is nothing I can do about it?”

All we can do is answer: “Yes, the chief executive of Spamhaus was once a Pink Floyd roadie and yes, he and his volunteers have that much power, and no, there is little to nothing you can do about it beyond not sending spam.”

And we should be prepared to have the accompanying discussion … again … around why buying email lists is such a bad idea.

Even the seemingly never-ending debates over subjects like using single vs. double opt-in during the signup process are worth having. You never know when someone newish to the industry may have something new to add.

Recognizing topic repetition is a natural part of being a veteran in a mature industry. Although conventional wisdom is often wrong, that doesn’t mean striving for collective wisdom is a waste of time. Repetitive discussions and debates help distinguish between the two.

We should be prepared to have the same discussions repeatedly for as long as we are in the email-marketing industry. There will always be a segment of the industry that has not heard them before and whose employer can benefit from them having heard them. There will always be conventional wisdom that needs to be debunked. There will always be collective wisdom that needs to be disseminated.

Those discussions serve a productive purpose. Rather then lament them we should embrace them and realize how blessed we are to be able to share our knowledge on a regular basis even if it sometimes seems like we’re living in an email-marketing version of Groundhog Day.