Is it OK to use your customer lists for other purposes?

email Overload

Every summer I hire a company to spray my yard with poison so as to fend off mosquitoes. In the winter I don’t use this service, so imagine my surprise when I received an email from them in the middle of February. My original thought was they were offering reaaallly early bird discounts. But no, it turns out they’re hiring.

I found it very strange (and a bit annoying) that I got an email advertising job openings from my mosquito poison vendor. It turns out that my neighbor, who also uses the service, got an email as well. I think its safe to assume that they emailed their whole customer list just in case any of us were looking for a new vocation as an insect hit(wo)man. I have a point (I swear) and here it is: 

Is it OK for business to use their customer list for purposes other than communicating things related to their customer relationship? My initial reaction was: No way! That’s not cool. 

But as I think about it more I realize that in B2B we do this all the time. We might not try to recruit employees (I hope not, anyway), but we definitely seem to assume that once someone’s email address becomes known to us, it’s fair game for whatever we want to bombard their inbox with.

Think about it. What do our customer get from us?

  • Welcome to our customer community
  • Pay your bill
  • Get to know your account manager
  • Your account manager has changed
  • Your customer newsletter
  • Your industry newsletter
  • Do you want to renew your service?
  • Do you want to buy more services from us?
  • Do you have anyone you want to refer to us (for rewards, of course)?
  • Are you willing to give us a reference?
  • Read our blog
  • Read our whitepaper
  • Attend our webinar
  • Attend our event
  • Are you going to the XXX Industry event? If so, visit our booth!
  • Are you satisfied with your service? Take our survey!
  • We have a new service – read all about it. Want to buy it?
  • We just released a new press release about ourselves. Want to read it?

…and I’m sure that list goes on.

How do we ensure that our customers get the information they need from us and want from us. And not the stuff they don’t need or want. We think all the stuff above is important. But is one more important than the other? How do we make sure the important things don’t get lost in the less important things? Do we need to say everything to everyone?

I have many more questions than answers. I don’t think there is one right answer, but I do think that the customer experience matters above all. Marketers – focus first on delivering a fantastic customer experience, and secondly on all that other shit. We all have goals to reach, but none of them matter without the customer, so find a way to put them first.

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