Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

About This Blog

Josh’s Tweet Stream

  • More tweets

« What Twitter and Facebook meant in the Egyptian Revolution | Main | Analysis of my inbox: 2 out 3 emails I get are from a machine »

February 14, 2011

Universal "Begone": a program for marketers on Valentine's Day

Email has gone too far. Our inboxes are full of unsolicited crap. And I don't mean spam. I just mean legitimate companies of all kinds emailing us about everything.

If you are a marketer, we have this Valentine's Day message for you: if you love your customer, let them go.

Marketers say that they want to be responsible, and many include links and instructions in their emails to comply with the CAN-SPAM act. These links are often small and grey -- hiding at the bottom of the message. The marketer is saying, in effect "We'll let you leave, we are complying with the law, but we don't want to make it easy."

It's like a scavenger hunt. Can you find the link? If you click on it, where do you end up? And what if you're not connected, say, on an airplane? Are you supposed to wait until you deplane to get off the mailing list? Why make it difficult?


Begone 72 Starting today, I propose a new program: Universal Begone.

Universal Begone is intended to make things easy for us, the consumers. The principle is simple.

If I receive an email from anyone whom I don't wish to receive emails with in the future, I reply with the word "begone" in the subject line.

Begone, as in "be gone, don't bother me anymore". A word, I point out, that is unlikely to be used for any other purpose.

The emailer is then responsible for taking me off their mailing list and not emailing me again.

If you’re sending a begone email response and want to spread the word and help the emailer you’ve “begoned” to understand, include the following URL in your email response: http://forr.com/Begone, the homepage for the Begone Movement.

Email marketers may reply "But . . . we might have you on multiple lists. Do you want to stop receiving our daily newsletter, or stop receiving emails about your order status?" Fine. Send an email back giving us a choice. "To get off all our mailing lists, reply with BEGONE LISTS. To get off our newsletter list, type BEGONE NEWSLETTER."

You may say “we’re not set up to receive responses from the email address we use for sending." Why is this the consumer’s problem? All you have to do is check the responses to see if they include the word “begone.” Easy.

Look, Zappos, the most popular shoestore on the planet, offers free returns. Does this mean they want you to return their products? Of course not. But by offering free returns, they say "We value our relationship with you" over "We want to make it harder for you to do returns." Isn't this how you want to treat your customers?

I look forward to hearing from all the technology vendors, email marketers, and government agencies who join the Begone Movement. I'll write about you. You can do this -- show me how. And I'll look forward to seeing your pledges at the home page for the Begone Movement.



TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Universal "Begone": a program for marketers on Valentine's Day:


Brad Templeton

There already is a standard word for this, it's "unsubscribe" and most good mailing list manager tools support it.

Not everybody does of course, but it would take even longer to get "begone" to that level and you would have all the managers scrambling to add this word to their list, and annoyed at you.

Not that it would work for me. I never give my real E-mail out to sites, so they always mail various aliases of mine. But the replies, with begone or unsubscribe come from the real address and they aren't smart enough to look at the message-id in the in-reply-to header and unsub me. Getting them to do that would be an even better goal.

Kathy Gill

Ah, but many mailing lists have a dead return address, so the "begone" reply would die a quick death.

I concur with the sentiment, however!

Josh Bernoff

Brad: how many lists are you on where a reply with "Unsubscribe" wouldn't work?

I'm looking to get "begone" much more widely accepted among vendors of email marketing services.

Brad Fallon

I think the "unsubscribe" is more widely accepted but I'm also looking forward for "begone" to be accepted among vendors of email services otherwise it will just die down.

Joe Devine

If there is one thing I try to champion, it is the idea of not trying to hold on to email subscribers with an iron grasp. Email Marketing initiatives, especially in this modern deliverability atmosphere, need to be targeted and relevant. Trying to curb list attrition by holding on to subscribers who really don't want to be there is counter productive to relevancy in email messaging. I love the idea and seriously support any unobtrusive and painless unsubscribe process, but in all reality, from a technical standpoint, using a reply email isn't typically the most effective method. Not because reply addresses don't work, I always advise that they should work and be checked, but because SMTP is inherently faulty. I know that sounds odd coming from a sender, but I see first hand everyday how email can fail. I wasn't always on the sending side either. I was once the primary on a large email infrastructure for an ISP. Managing missing email on either side of the send can be a big pain. I have heard people scream about their mail not being delivered but they don't scream nearly as loudly as those who aren't able to receive their emails! I think the industry: marketers, senders, AND recipients (mail hosts/mail applicaiton devs) simply need to be clear and upfront about existing and functional unsubscribe methods. Using unsubscribe data in the header of emails is a good example. There are only a few mail hosts or clients looking at that data and allowing recipients to access it. http://www.list-unsubscribe.com/ I think this process is a great way to facilitate clear and functional unsubscribe. With a plugin or a nice interface on your chosen mail platform, the unsubscribe can be clear and easy to use.

Amy Garland @ Blue Sky Factory

Quality over quantity! The more obvious you make the unsubscribe link, the less likely your audience is to hit "Report as Spam". My co-worker (at Blue Sky Factory), Joanna Lawson-Matthew, wrote a blog post "triple dog daring" marketers to move the unsubscribe link to the top of their emails. My boss, Christopher Penn, not only does that in his personal newsletter, but he makes the button large and obnoxiously pink to avoid any confusion (and people still seem to complain that it's not obvious enough).

If marketers make it easy to unsubscribe, those people will leave will a more positive view of their brand, and they'll have a more engaged list in the long run.

Amy Garland
Marketing Manager, Blue Sky Factory

Shar Van Boskirk

The problem, Josh, is that email marketing WORKS for marketers in its present state. We all know we get too many emails, and we all know that marketers would be smarter to send fewer, more targeted messages. But the economic reality is that sending more email volume continues to generate positive returns to emailers. Its sort of like, we all hate telemarketing calls, but you still get them. Why? Because they work. Someone, somewhere is buying knives from the guy who calls you at dinner time.

I still think that the ulitimate answer to the spam problem is one that has to make the marketer feel some financial pain. Jim Nail introduced this idea in 2003, and I think he was right: http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/real_answer_to_spam_problem/q/id/33324/t/2.
To get marketers to send less email you have to make them pay "postage" for each message they send.

Proposal Software

This is amazing. I have listen 1st time that this tool (Begone) can do this job for us. Getting irrelevant emails is the biggest issue for me as i hate to read irrelevant emails and deleting them all the time. Its perfect that we can get rid of those emails by simply writing begone in the subject line. This is excellent. Thanx alot for sharing this with us it really will help..

The comments to this entry are closed.