exec summ: many of your hard-won customers are not receiving important communications if you are using hubspot‘s email manager tool for customer relationship management (crm). (note: to be fair, this may be the case with other email service providers, as well.) the main reason for this appears to be an overzealous interpretation of anti-spam legislation. here’s what happens and why. in my next post I’ll get into diagnosis and treatment.
let me begin by saying I love hubspot. hubspot is wonderful for helping attract and nurture prospective customers. I have been a big fan of the concept of inbound marketing since crm was plain old drip, and the reality as a hubspot customer has been even better. “permission-based” email is a critical element of the hubspot system – emails are only sent in response to an explicit or implicit request. in theory, this means that any communication is welcomed as part of an ongoing conversation. in practice, however, there is one aspect of hubspot’s permission-based koolaid that sticks in my throat.
all cats are not grey in the dark
as noted above, we use email to provide information about our products and services, or to advise customers and prospects of webinars and other events. in fact, a customer for one product may well be a prospect for one or more other products or services. like many businesses, we also rely on email to communicate critical information to customers. we advise new customers that we will communicate things like links to software updates (for installed products) or advise them of service interruptions (for hosted products) as part of our business relationship.
take a look at this email preferences screen from the acronym formerly known as united parcel service. users can elect to receive or decline several types of email. the shipper even includes a link to examples of the different categories. ups provides an easy way for users to say “no thank you” to receiving any* email communications from the company (I added the asterisk because they did). in what would normally be called fine print but isn’t here because it’s the same size as the rest of the print, ups explains that while users can choose not to receive any kind of email about their services, products, or opinions about fondue and whatever else is in their newsletter, the firm does reserve the right to send communications relating to a user’s relationship with the company as a customer.
in fact, the examples they provide are all customer-related, but the language is broad enough to conceivably include anyone requesting information about a product or service whether or not they are a current customer. that’s because can-span classifies these types of email messages as transactional, which are specifically excluded from can-spam’s commercial email restrictions.
so what’s wrong with the way hubspot handles unsubscribe requests? in its world, all cats are grey in the dark, and all email is promotional. here’s part of the company’s description of which contacts are filtered from all email lists: “A contact is marked ineligible in your HubSpot account if they unsubscribed from your email marketing….” however, the “unsubscribe all” option on the hubspot email preferences page specifies all email communications. in other words, hubspot doesn’t appear to accommodate non-marketing email communications in its system.
a faint-hearted fix for the unwittingly unsubscribed
hubspot’s solution for clients with customers they believe have been mistakenly stricken from every email is also uncharacteristically clumsy for the marketing wizard. unsubscribed individuals can only be removed from the ineligible list by updating their email preferences. there are just two ways for our customers to reach those preferences: either by tracking down a previous email from us sent via hubspot, or by clicking a link that arrives in this rather sketchy-sounding request from hubspot (not us):
our customers, for the most part, are blissfully unaware that email from us is really coming from hubspot. we’re good with that. so why choose now to reveal the clicking, whirring beast behind the curtain? the only thing missing is a mention of a lost wallet or a vague reference to a nigerian inheritance.
hubspot, you are so good – why the ham handed approach to what must be an ongoing challenge for any organization of reasonable size?