And I hate it when I am shopping online, and uncheck the box that says "send me updates and marketing messages," but that retailer adds me to their mailing list anyways. The anti-spam law in the US makes it legal for them to do this. Fine. But then why put that check box on their shopping cart at all, when they are just pretending to ask for permission? Again, in interpersonal relationships, this would be considered extremely flaky. But sadly, it's normalized when it comes to online retail.
I'm certain there are "marketing consultants" teaching these "best practice" behaviors to retailers. I wonder if those who do this are actually making more money? Or are they doing it because they are struggling? It conveys a sense of desperation for sure. Is it worth the cost of creating an uncomfortable environment for their customers and employees? I now boycott stores where this treatment was particularly bad, such as Staples, Ulta, and Old Navy.
Yes, a customer's email address is a valuable asset. But obtaining them via harassment and trickery seems like a counterproductive approach. Even if you succeed in growing your email list that way, you are only gaining low-value contacts, who are just marginally interested in your work. It's also totally unnecessary. I put an email list signup pad in my booth, but never refer customers to it. I still get plenty of signups at every show. My list might grow faster if I was prompting people to do it. But a person who signs up purely on their own motivation is an extremely valuable contact! I want my list to contain only these high-value contacts. I am interested in long-term value, not short-term gain. If I notice somebody signing up, I will say "Oh, thank you! You'll get an email from me every time I do a show. It's usually about ten per year." I want to convey that I know they did me a favor, and exactly how I plan to use their address.
In the pottery business, I believe that your ability to turn "customers" into a "repeat customers" will determine whether your business will survive. "Customer experience" is just as important as the quality of your pots. The people who are willing to buy handmade pottery is a tiny subculture. You can't afford to annoy them, because replacing them is much harder for us, compared to retailers selling mass-produced clothing, makeup, or office supplies. I would never want a customer to walk away from my booth thinking "well, that was triggering." I want my customers to leave feeling buzzed and happy. If they don't, they will not come back, no matter how much they like the pottery.
My payment processor, Square, recently developed a new feature that allows me to send marketing messages to anyone who has made a credit card payment to me. I know that legally I am allowed to do this, but I won't. Even though these people have made a previous purchase, they did not intentionally "opt in" to receive further communications from me. I will not cross that line.
In the early days of developing my online pottery school, I realized that I shouldn't send school announcements to the subscribers of my main mailing list. Those people signed up for art festival announcements, not for a pottery school's announcements. So I started from scratch with a separate mailing list for the school. Some of my videos are now available on a subscription basis, which I think is a better value for most people, compared to renting the videos one at a time. I know it is common practice for those who offer subscription services to try their darnedest to stop their customers from unsubscribing, even sinking as low as feigned incompetence. I will never do that! When a student asks for help with unsubscribing, I send them clear instructions for unsubscribing. I have no interest in harvesting money that someone doesn't intend to spend. Recently, Vimeo (where my videos are hosted) made a mistake (accidentally on purpose?) that sort-of tricked its users into not unsubscribing. I was pretty mad about that, and sent all of the school's email subscribers a heads-up, describing what the issue was, and making sure they knew how to unsubscribe.
Am I hurting myself by not following what are now considered "normal" retail tactics? Apparently not. My business survived 1.5 years of pandemic shutdowns with no pain. And now that shows are back in person, I have been selling much better than before the pandemic. At a recent show, I literally sold every single pot. This is due to the strength of my high-value mailing list, that I acquired on a slow basis, prioritizing quality over quantity. By viewing customers as real people with real boundaries, not as credit cards with legs. I have maxed out all of my goals for this business, and I didn't have to trick or harass anyone to achieve this. If I had, I believe I would have a lot fewer repeat customers, and I would be unhappy with myself for making people feel obligated or deceived. That buzzed and happy feeling is not just for customers, I want that reward too.
I've heard other artists say that their customers do not use their email list sign up pad, unless they are prompted. I have lots of thoughts on why some artists experience this. My high-value email list did not materialize simply because I DON'T ask people for their email addresses. There are many other factors in play. I am planning to write another blog post about all of these factors, which will hopefully make these modern retail practices seem really cheesy.