How Salesforce.com is Mangling Their Email Marketing Efforts & What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes

Wow. I just received another email from Salesforce.com this morning. This wouldn’t be that interesting except for the fact that I quit using Salesforce.com about 9 months ago. In addition to no longer being their customer, I’ve unsubscribed from their email list – or at least tried to on more than one occasion. Despite my efforts to unsubscribe I continue to get updates from them that are not only unwanted, but an example of a “major” company that doesn’t have their email marketing efforts in order. Not only have I unsuccessfully attempted to opt-out of their email campaign using the unsubscribe link – I have contacted specific individuals at their company trying to be helpful (since I’m in this business) asking to be removed. I’ve been passed around like good weed at a stoner party (to get to the right person) and assured that they are removing me and yet, again today I just received another email.

So, here’s what you can learn from Salesforce.com:

1. The first mistake is that they send email from a “No-Reply” address. This is a fundamental mistake and email marketing 101. The whole idea of email marketing is to engage your customer. If you cant accept replies to your outbound messages then you shouldn’t be sending them. Some companies make this mistake because they get a raft of replies that have nothing to do with the email sent – and the company therefore considers it a waste of their time. But what’s really happening is that customers are reaching out hoping to find a human being to help solve their problem. I’m not sure anything is more important to a company’s future than helping their customers solve problems, yet it is deemed an annoyance and that customers “should go through the right channels.” In these cases little regard is given that the customers may have already tried that approach and failed. Bottom line is that if you can’t respond to your customer’s replies – you shouldn’t be using email regardless of how big you are.

2. They do not have an opt-out link on their “customer” emails. This is in violation of the CAN-SPAM act, and subjects them to an $11,000 fine per email that they send out. Apparently someone at Salesforce.com has made the decision that since these are “Customers” (or apparently FORMER customers in my case) that they should have no choice than to receive these emails. This is another mistake at creating a one-way communication channel with customers. Ultimately, your customers should have the choice whether or not they want to hear from you. That includes you Microsoft!

3. Since they can’t even take someone off their lists when asked – multiple times, it’s highly doubtful that Salesfore.com is segmenting their audience for targeted emails. The message I received today was to alert me to the upcoming changes that are taking place on their platform and how that will affect me. Well, if they did any kind of segmentation at all they would see that I have had ZERO activity with their platform in the last 9 months, so making me aware of their changes is a waste of both of our times. What they could have done (had I not already asked to unsubscribe!) is send me some kind of message that says “Hey Ken, we’ve noticed that you have not logged into the platform in over 9 months. We want you to know about some helpful videos that we created in helping customer like yourself get started.” That kind of message is targeted and might be relevant assuming I HADN’T ALREADY CANCELED MY ACCOUNT.

4. Another common problem with companies like Salesfore.com that integrate their CRM with an email platform is that any silo of your business (marketing, sales, customer support, etc) can easily broadcast an email to contacts in the database. This can lead to anything from mildly annoying your contacts with too many emails, to complete disaster like sending directly conflicting information or overlapping offers. Large companies need to have an email marketing individual leading a thoughtful campaign with highly relevant email messages instead of the free for all that can exist when everyone has access. I suspect that this is the case with me and Salesforce.com – they can’t figure out where else my information exists to keep people from emailing me and don’t have central control. Or they apparently can’t figure out how to completely delete my record permanently in their own heralded platform.

5. By the way, if you are curious on why we abandoned Salesforce.com it was because of the complexity of the application and it’s steep learning curve. After signing up, and watching my 4th video tutorial and completing my 4th skills test, it was still difficult to figure out the basics of entering a lead and setting a reminder task. And as a former corporate sales champion I have had my share of experience with CRMs. If you are considering Salesforce but don’t need a lot of the advanced tools check out Highrise at 37Signals.com For us it’s the right amount of information, takes about 15 minutes to master, and has all the tools that we need.

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