Why are so many people’s marketing lists stale?

For the last few months, I’ve been doing freelance and consulting work at my amazing, stupendous digital marketing agency, Gas Mark 8. It’s been an interesting time, and I’ve learned so much about managing a business. It’s been more than just web and programming, WordPress, design, video and more. I’m talking accounting, bookkeeping, expenses, and so on. It’s been a crash course, that honestly, was easier to do when it was just a side hustle.

Welcome to the inbox of my discontent

One of my institutions I’m working with at the moment is my old employer, where I was head of marketing. While I miss that role and the people terribly, there’s one thing I don’t miss. That’s the endless parade of cold calls, sales inquiry emails and, shockingly, the random drop-in at my office from a potential vendor. Not cool.

I’ve needed to get my old email address back as most people on campus had it saved in their email clients and I was missing emails. Since getting it back, I’m shocked at what comes into that mailbox.

There’s mail from lists I never signed up for. Mail from companies that don’t offer services relevant to higher education web and marketing. WordPress comment notifications.

What’s surprised me the most is the flood of cold-call emails from sales people. In the last week, I’ve seen all the classics, including:

  • I didn’t hear back from you a week ago and here’s another email?
  • You didn’t respond, so here’s an email trying to be funny or cute with a gif or emoji
  • You don’t know me, but can you talk for 10 minutes today?
  • License a magazine logo that gave your school a good ranking

I know most of these are automated, but if your mail system and/or sales CRM sees that I didn’t open an email from you for the last two years, wouldn’t you remove me from your list? Why would you continue to hammer my inbox for something I was never going to even see?

It’s not like sales people and the automated systems aren’t checking for new data. Every week, LinkedIn tells me I showed up dozens of searches a week. I initially thought (and wrote on Twitter) that was a ton of people looking to offer me jobs (spoilers: it wasn’t, sadly. Instead, I learned¬† sales people are using the site to scrape for info. Daniel Kraciun hit me up with some good info:

Given that info, you would think people would update their stale list and see that I last worked for that particular employer two years and as many jobs ago.

I guess at the end of day, these bad practices stun me. It’s never been easier to get current information about people, and yet people aren’t doing a good job of it.

What does this mean for Higher Ed?

Let me tie this into higher education marketing. Are we doing the similar things in our space?

I ask because I am going through the college search process with my son. He is getting dozens of emails a week from schools all over the country (and he should, he’s amazing.)

Screenshot from an email What I’ve found interesting is that even after he demonstrates interest by attending an open house, or visiting campus, he’s still getting “search” emails from one of the several vendors we all outsource our search emails to.

Talk about mixed messages. He’s constantly asking me if he should respond to another “search” email asking him to confirm his interest. This is happening even after he’s emailed the admissions office, took a tour, and talked with a faculty member. Someone’s list is now stale. It’s clear the campus CRM and the vendor platforms aren’t communicating well, if at all.

That might not seem like a big deal, but it could be very detrimental.

It just takes a small bit of confusion and people, like us, will end up ignoring the emails or removing ourselves from that school’s list, and that’s that. With so many choices in terms of higher ed, it feels like it doesn’t take much to cross a school off the list. If I have to do a ton of work just to see if you want me (or my son) to attend, we’re gonna pass. Time is, after all, money.

Don’t let this happen to your institution!