Apple Box stores Business culture Buy Local Competition Creativity Customer relationships customer retention Customer service ECommerce Retail Small Business Strategy websites

Showrooming and the sales prevention department

Last time, we discussed the often forgotten reason for showrooming that happens after price shopping: convenience and time/fuel savings.

Remember Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief? If you’ve forgotten, they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

When applied to showrooming, it isn’t much different. Acceptance and the clarity that accompanies it are where the sales live. Even big retail is figuring it out.

Big retail embraces showrooming

Big retailers are starting to embrace showrooming because they’ve realized that reacting to and/or punishing it has proven ineffective. Learn from their mistakes, research and investments. Customers who showroom are likely to be better informed shoppers that you don’t want to lose. Their phone might help them decide that your store is the right place to buy.

Retailers that welcome the smartphone shopper in their stores with mobile applications and wi-fi access — rather than fearing showrooming — can be better positioned to accelerate their in-store sales – particularly with the holiday shopping season approaching.

Shoppers armed with smartphones are 14 percent more likely to make a purchase in the store than those who do not use a smartphone as part of their in-store journey. – Deloitte study for Saks Fifth Avenue

Most small businesses don’t have the resources to embrace showrooming with a smartphone app, or don’t think they do. If that’s the case, what do you do?

The simplest answer is to side with the customer. Do this by making the in-store experience so much better than anything anyone can provide online. That’s where it pays to visit an Apple store – where nothing is like retail as you typically see it.

The last Apple store I visited was in Portland. In an average-sized mall store, there were 28 employees on the sales floor – and all of them were with customers. I thought this was odd, so I tried another Apple store.

Same thing.  There were over 100 shoppers in the store. Almost all of them were in groups engaged in a conversation while they used an Apple device. Many of those conversations included an Apple staffer.

The sales prevention department

Compare that to the shopping experience in a typical consumer electronics store.

Try to test drive a Kindle. It’s locked in demo mode. You can’t pick it up and hold it because of the security device and short “don’t steal me” cable attached to it.

The display of the device is focused on theft prevention. Why is this a bad thing? Because theft prevention becomes sales prevention.

In an Apple store, nothing’s locked down. Sure, there are lots of people around to make sure you don’t walk out the door with that fancy MacBook – but the products are presented in a way that is clearly designed to encourage you to pick them up and try them out.

Unlike most stores that sell laptops and tablets, the devices aren’t cabled down, nor is there a password protected screensaver that prevents you from doing any real examination of the machine.

They make this happen because no matter what you do to the device, at the end of the day, they have systems in place to “wipe” them and reset them to out-of-the-box new condition, software-wise. This assures that the next day’s sales aren’t impacted by what someone might have done to a device. They can also reset them during the day if someone went really crazy.

It’s almost unfair to sell against a setup like that. Perhaps that’s why Apple’s retail sales per square foot are higher than anyone else’s – over $6000 per foot.

What’s different?

If you’ve ever visited an Apple store, you’ve never seen a dead machine, much less one with a message that tells you it needs attention from a technical person. You won’t see a locked screensaver.

Now think about other electronics retailers. Their sales floor machines are locked down that you can’t do anything and there’s almost always one that’s off in never-never land, waiting for some tech help.

Step back a few paces. This isn’t just about Apple, laptops or tablets. It’s about encouraging someone to engage with your product, thus *enabling* a purchase.

No matter what you sell, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Are your displays focused making it easy to fall in love with a product and buy it?
  • Are your displays focused on controlling the sales process and preventing theft?

Making it easier to buy is something every one of us can do. It’s price-based showrooming’s Kryptonite.

Automation Box stores Business culture Competition Customer relationships customer retention Customer service ECommerce Retail Setting Expectations Small Business websites

Forgotten: What happens after they showroom?

Plastic supermarket carts.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Polycart

The last time we talked about showrooming, I referred to a Harris Poll that exposed a conflicting behavior among shoppers.

The behavior? “Most” people (70%) say they showroom because of price, yet they often buy locally even if it means having to pay a slightly higher price.

That’s right, 70% didn’t choose solely on price. Once again, buyers say one thing, but when convenience and access to local expertise enter the picture, they often behave differently at purchase time.

The survey’s findings echo my buying tendencies – which surprised me a little. Shopping is not an endorphin releasing event for me. I’ll *always* buy from a store that is easier to get in, find what I need and get out of, even if it’s a little more expensive than a competitor whose shopping experience is cumbersome, time-consuming or just plain difficult.

Do you feel the same way about the brick and mortar stores you visit? If so, why would you expect your customers to feel any different when they compare shopping locally to shopping online?

In the last piece, I didn’t mention that the WalMart moving boxes were cheaper. What I did tell you was that they couldn’t tell me if they had them in stock unless I placed an order and waited “a few hours” for an email or a text message. Not convenient.

Claiming that price is the sole or dominant cause of showrooming appears to align with how people shop early on, but it seems research “forgets” to follow behavior all the way to the actual purchase. Recent research is showing that showrooming starts because of price but continues for convenience – so be careful about discouraging it.

That good shopping experience

Can shoppers have a “good shopping experience” at your online store? Can they buy and have it delivered? Can they have it reserved and ready to pick up?

You might be thinking “What a hassle. I never had to do this before. Why should I start now?“ While you’re probably right, that’s exactly what big box online stores hope you’re thinking.

Have you asked your customers if they have a smartphone? Have you asked them if they use it to visit your store? Have they ever walked into your store to buy something and found you didn’t have it in stock?

What seed does that plant in their mind? What will they think about coming to your place the next time?

These things matter everywhere, not just in urban locales. Fuel and time are costs people like to avoid. When your store or website causes them to waste either one, it doesn’t help you to become (or remain) the main place they shop.

The moving boxes again

Remember that cumbersome moving box shopping experience I mentioned earlier? What happened *before* I drove to Home Depot?

  • I ran out of boxes…but it was more complex than that.
  • I ran out of boxes in the evening when my local stores were closed.
  • I ran out of boxes on a holiday weekend when the local UHaul stores were closed.
  • I shopped at another big retailer’s site that couldn’t tell me if they had boxes in stock.
  • I shopped at Home Depot’s site, which told me exactly what they had (and didn’t).

My experience online reflects some of the complexities and frustrations of your customers’ lives when they shop in your store.

That frustration is also what drives people online – where they are often frustrated by your web store.

Take everything away that a local store can provide that online shopping rarely provides – and you’re left with the local equivalent of, without reviews and (probably) with a slightly higher price.

Is that what shoppers want? What aren’t they getting *prior* to making a buying decision?

Just looking

Think about why we say “Just looking” when we enter a store. Sometimes it might be because we’re just looking, but we often say it by reflex. If you really are there to buy something, I’ll bet “Just looking” pops out for one of these reasons:

  • Because most of the floor employees know less about what we came there to buy than we do.
  • Because you’ve already done your research and made up your mind.
  • Because you don’t want someone following you all over the store.

Is that why your customers say it?

Automation Business Resources Customer relationships customer retention Direct Marketing Email marketing Entrepreneurs Getting new customers Internet marketing Marketing Recurring Revenue Restaurants Retail Sales Small Business systems The Slight Edge Web 2.0 Web Analytics websites

Six simple questions about your website

I received these questions in an email from Tony Robbins last year.

The premise was to ask if you could answer these questions without doing a bunch of research, much less if you could answer them at all.

  1. How many visitors come to your website per month?
  2. How many of those turn into sales?
  3. How many emails are you collecting per month through your website?
  4. How long has the site been up?
  5. How many emails are in your database that have been collected through your website?
  6. What are you doing to follow up with visitors and close sales?

Seems to me they’re as important now as they were in 1995, much less last year.

A lot of businesses pay attention to #1. Many pay attention to #2.

Number 3 and 5 get plenty of attention from some, not so much from others.

The Big One

Number 6 is the one that I see the least effort on across the board.

Are you assuming they’ll come back? Are you doing something to get them to come back? Are you doing something to keep them as a customer over the long term?

So many questions…

Rather than being overwhelmed by it all, deal with the lack of an answer one at a time – particularly if it requires work.

Having one answer is much better than having none.

Automation Business model Business Resources Buy Local Competition Customer relationships Direct Marketing Marketing Sales service Small Business strategic planning Strategy systems Technology tracking Web Analytics websites

Habits and Heatmaps

Here’s your sign.

While it is a well-known “redneck” comedian punch line, it’s also something you should be looking for.

Some signs you must seek out, while others have been right in front of you all year long.

Many of those signs are buried in your existing business data.


Your business data illustrates your customers’ behavior, including buying and service calls. Some companies use it, some don’t.

For example, I realized today that I hadn’t sent out thank yous to a few clients. It’s been a very hectic, deadline-filled November and December and this is something I usually do right after Thanksgiving.

Not this year. And no, it wasn’t on my calendar because it’s just ingrained behavior. Bad Mark. Bad, Bad, Bad.

When I do remember this (and now, when it pops up on my calendar), I use high-end vendors to ship items like fresh or smoked salmon to a short list of folks that I do business with year-in and year-out.

One of the reasons I forgot? I didn’t get a catalog from either of the two vendors that I usually use. Well, sort of. I got a catalog two months ago, but that isn’t prime ordering season for “corporate gifts”.

The problem with this is that these businesses know when I order. If they look at the data from prior orders, they could *predict* when I place an order and what I might buy, much less where I’d send it.

Predictable Male Behavior

If I bought a two pound smoked salmon for the last five years, they know this because the ship to isn’t my name or address (not to mention the “It’s a gift” checkbox on the order form).

Given typical male shopping predictability (“get in, get out, move on”), they could have won the order by simply dropping a card in the mail or sending me an email saying “Hey Mark, we appreciate that you’ve ordered our delicious smoked salmon as a gift for the last five years, would you like us to send Joe another two pounds or would you prefer something different but in the same price range, such as our crab sampler?”

Or something like that. How tough would that be? No cold call. No catalog. Just an email from data that already tells them how I behave.

Do you want to do this for everyone? Probably not, but it would be of use in concept at the very least. Look at your order/sales data. Not just across the board, but for your best customers, however you define that. When do they buy? Might be a good time to place a reminder in front of them.

Look for the heat

Have you ever looked at a heat map?

On a heat map, the “hotter” looking places are either the locations where most people click or they indicate where eye-tracking tools determined that people are looking most of the time when they view a page.

Below, you can see an example website heat map illustrating click locations.

The red places indicate locations where the most people clicked.

The yellow and green areas are slightly less popular click locations and the blue are even less frequently clicked.

In other words, red is hot, yellow is warm, green is cool, blue is cold – just like on a graphical heat display – only this one shows the locations where people click on this web page.


Videos also do a nice job of illustrating data on a heat map, like this click location map.

This video shows a heat map eye movement on a video advertisement and the results aren’t what you might assume from seeing the still preview image.


Like any other measurement device, tools like the heat map help you understand if your site is well-designed for your user community (they are not alike from niche to niche) and can indicate usability issues, copywriting problems (and wins) and design strengths and weaknesses.

Your sales/order data is full of behavioral information.

People tend to be visual learners. What if we stirred these two together?

What would you learn if you looked at your calendar overlaid with a heat map based on your lead, sales, order and service data?

Business Resources Customer service Hospitality Improvement Internet marketing Marketing planning Positioning Restaurants Retail service Small Business strategic planning Strategy Technology websites

Tending Your Garden

Mmmmm Harvest... - Fort Collins, Colorado
Creative Commons License photo credit: gregor_y

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking about websites at the monthly Columbia Falls Chamber of Commerce lunch meeting.

While it’s not exactly opening for the Stones at Madison Square Garden, it’s an honor because it’s a group of mostly local business owners whose success is important to me.

I was asked to talk on the subject “So, Ive got a website…now what?”

While it’s a valid question, it’s not how I want you to be thinking about your site. See, a fair number of business owners think about their site as “Something I gotta do” rather than something that is part of their strategic efforts to win business.

Please don’t do that.

Your website (like your advertising, hiring, etc) is not a checkbox that you mark off and have done forever after you’ve finished it the first time.

Your website, like those other things, is like a garden.

Be the Farmer

When you have a garden, it requires a process to start it and continued maintenance to help it produce.

You till, you plant after the last frost, you water, you weed, you chase off the deer and rabbits. After doing those last few things all summer, you enjoy the harvest before the first frost (mostly). All of these things happen on a schedule.

Your business is no different. You perform various activities on a schedule because it’s strategically wise to do so.

You don’t plant a garden and then walk away from it for months at a time and come back expecting it to feed you. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect that of a website. Both require strategic thought and upkeep.

What to plant?

Let’s back up a little though… In your website garden, what do you plant?

Would it help to consider the roles you want your site to serve?

Depending on what you do, your website may carry a heavy burden that makes it seem an impossible task. Don’t let that stop you from starting a site.

You might have to start small and incrementally expand the roles it fills.

Some possible roles…

  • Brochure. Far too many small business websites stop here.
  • Greeter
  • Customer service department
  • Order processing
  • PR person
  • News source. What’s new. If you havent changed your site’s content in 5 years, what does that say about your business?
  • 24 hour answering service
  • Reservations agent
  • Waiter
  • Maitre D
  • Marketing dude
  • Trade show booth

How well does your site fill these roles? Did I miss any?

The toughest question facing many small business owners is “What should I put on my site?”

Why do people call you? What info do they need?

If you look at the roles your site serves, the questions and answers become obvious. You deal with them every day.


A big mistake I see made with small business websites is that they are created and then ignored (or close to it).

You wouldn’t do that to a garden…why would you do it to a strategically important part of your business?

You wouldn’t ignore a client at your doorstep or on the phone, so why do it online?

Some example weeds include…

  • A site that offers no way to interact with a visitor or let them contact you.
  • A site that fails to give visitors a reason to come back regularly.
  • A site whose address (URL) isn’t included on your other business materials, signs, vehicles, brochures, business cards, etc. I shouldnâ??t have to mention this but I STILL SEE it.
  • A site that doesn’t offer information to help the customer get more out of their investment at that business.

Curb appeal

Most people don’t care so much about their garden’s curb appeal, unless it’s a flower garden.

How are you presenting the information your site’s visitors want?

Think about describing your favorite national park to a friend.

  • You can write a description.
  • You can talk about it.
  • You can show them photos.
  • You can show them videos.
  • Or you can take them there.

Which has the most impact?

While the last one is ideal, it isn’t always possible, so aim for the next best thing.

It’ll depend on what info you are trying to convey, but short videos are likely the most powerful.

The impact difference between text  vs. photos and video is substantial. The investment is cheap. Most people won’t have to invest in a fancy camera and software because their cell phone will capture photos and/or HD video. Some of them will upload directly to YouTube (etc).

Critters who visit

Mobile browser use continues to grow like crazy. How does your site look in a mobile browser?

For some people, it doesn’t matter all that much. In the last 10 months, our chamber website has had only 150 visits by mobile browser users. The reasons are obvious because of the type of info a chamber site contains and the content sought by typical site users.

Your site might be exactly the opposite. If I had a restaurant, motel or tourist attraction, I’d be sure my site worked well from mobile browsers so that people could use it from their phone while traveling. If your site is one that would be used frequently by a person on the go, failing to have a mobile-friendly site is like putting a fence around your garden to keep the bees out during the bloom.

Location, location, location

Location-sensitive mobile web applications (Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places, et al) are growing in lock step with mobile browsing.

Taking advantage of them is a great idea…unless your garden has been neglected and overrun with weeds. Until the site is in tip top shape, your time is best spent on making the best possible content available to your visitors given the roles your site serves.

Even if you don’t take advantage of location-specific mobile applications, there are several location-specific things your site should address. Is there a map to your business? Is your business registered with Google Places? (formerly Google Local) If you’re in a tourist area, how close are you to big ticket items? What can you help them enjoy? How hard is it to find out all the stuff a visitor wants to know? How hard is it for them to make an online reservation?


All over TV and elsewhere, you see businesses referring to Facebook-based web pages.

While it’s OK to have a Facebook page for your business, I don’t recommend that its the ONLY site you have. Keep in mind that your Facebook page is also yet-another-garden to tend. Don’t spread yourself too thin or the weeds will take over.

So…how’s your garden doing? Is it primed for a great harvest?

Business Resources Competition Corporate America customer retention ECommerce Internet marketing Marketing Marketing to women Restaurants Retail Small Business Social Media Strategy websites Word of mouth marketing

Marrying Facebook, or just dating?

I‘ve heard a lot of talk about “Facebook taking over” the web lately.

It’ll only take over the web if you let it.

I realize there’s a lot of noise out there about new F8 (Facebook app) platform, which includes the like and share buttons that you see here on my blog.

Those buttons are important not because they drive traffic to Facebook (just the reverse, in fact), but because they allow YOU (my readers) to *quickly and easily* share a blog post with a friend on Facebook. No cutting, no pasting, almost no effort. Making it easy for you to share is the ONLY reason why the buttons are there.

If you have a web site and don’t have those buttons integrated, do so soon. Make it easy for folks to share what you do with their friends, family and co-workers via their Facebook wall.

Facebok is not a web host

I’ll bet you’ve seen a lot of ads in major media that promote a vendor’s Facebook page rather than their primary website.

Hopefully they have some metrics on that, but on the surface I just can’t recommend it. If you’re investing in a major media buy and can plaster one website address in your print/video/radio ad, why in the world would you send it to rather than your own site?

I just don’t see the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely agree that you should have a fan/group page at Facebook, but I really have to caution you against using a Facebook fan page as your primary (or only) website.

Even if your business is consumer-based (which means that Facebook is a natural for it – especially if you focus on products of interest to women), you need to really think hard about what’s going to happen if Facebook changes their terms of service and for whatever reason they decide that your fan page is no longer acceptable.

Whatever the reason might be, there’s there have been many instances where systems like this have just disappeared, have gotten bought out or have had changes in terms of service. Sometimes these events are very difficult to recover from.


If Facebook is used for your main website and you’re in a business-to-business market (where your clients are other businesses), it’s entirely possible that your clients will have no access to Facebook – and thus, to your website. It’s quite common for the network administration staff to block access to all social media sites, especially in larger businesses (especially big corporates with lots of worrying attorneys).

In some cases, even laptops that travel with outside employees will block sites like Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s OK to have a Facebook page for your business.

In many cases, it’s a great idea – particularly to provide another source for promotions and customer service access – but DON’T depend on a Facebook (or MySpace etc) page to be your only website.

Worst case scenarios

What happens if Facebook goes under, or has some catastrophe that brings their site down for a week? What if you start doing something that they don’t like? It doesn’t matter what that is.

Might not be a big deal today, might not be a big deal next week but at some point in the game the possibility could occur that you could get your Facebook fan page turned off overnight.

Do you want to come in tomorrow and find that all of the links on the ‘net that point to your “site” on Facebook are suddenly pointing to Facebook’s 404 page – or worse – to a Facebook ad page that lists your competitors?

It could happen.

It’s OK if some of the links out on the net point to your fan page, but you want them to get to your main site: a site you have complete control over. Bringing them to Facebook is one thing, leaving them there is entirely different and downright risky.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about the new Facebook advertising features that have prompted all the privacy complaints – and we’ll talk about why these are mostly good for yo, both as a consumer and a business owner.

Automation Business Resources Competition customer retention Management Marketing quality Retail service Small Business systems Technology The Slight Edge websites

Retailers: How do I know you *really* have it?

Yesterday we talked about a retail experience that could have been better – mostly by doing something to encourage a customer to call you next time.

Did you notice the cost of yesterday’s suggestion? ZERO.

Today, we’ll talk about an experience related to yesterday’s story: Stock levels.

When you go to the websites of most retail stores these days, you can see stock level information. In some cases, you’ll see it for each store location.

In most of the big chain stores, this information is as close to real time as you can expect – in other words, if you check the website from your car and it says that 52″ Sony you have your eye on is the last one in stock, the chances that it’s still in the store are very good.

It might be in someone’s cart, but it should still be in the store.

In stock…maybe

When you start working with local and regional retailers, the information quality tends to go downhill a bit.

What I see is a combination of these things:

  • “Call for stock info” (or a similar message)
  • “Item in stock”
  • “23 in stock”

The unfortunate reality of this is that none of this info is accurate.

If you’re going to have this stuff on your site – make it accurate, even if it has to say “Item in stock as of month, day, year” or “stock status updated every Friday”.

The alternative is having in-stock inventory info on your site, which your customer believes. In some cases, they make plans based on that info.

And then they find out that the info really means across your entire retail system as of a week ago, not of their local store. And even that might not be accurate.

If you don’t have the systems in place to keep this info accurate, ask them to contact you instead of relaying poor quality (inaccurate, outdated) information.

If you can get the info on your site up to date (and many of you probably can), then make it accurate to within an hour, or 5 minutes or real time – but state the accuracy for your customer’s convenience.

Remember, if people can’t trust your site…they’ll stop coming to it.

Business Resources Improvement Internet marketing Marketing Positioning Small Business Strategy websites

Hi, my name is TriFold Brochure. Not.

The primary message / goal / mission of this blog is that you and your business need to create a more personal connection with your clients.

To that end, someone asked me this morning about the website work that I do. We talked briefly about the technology (because that someone was a technical person) but the really important thing to talk about is the conversation you want the site to have with the people who visit it.

To your existing clients and those who already trust you, your site can be a channel to elicit conversation, to keep folks up to date on what’s new in your business and how you can help them.

But…you have to get them from “Hi, nice to meet you” before that conversation makes sense. Otherwise, it can feel like spam or an unwanted telemarketing call.

Nice to meet you

To everyone that you’ve never met or who hasn’t yet got a reason to trust you, your website is an introduction. It’s a way to expose to them what you do, what you think, what you have in common, perhaps personally and professionally but more importantly mindset-wise.

How would you want a client, friend or partner to introduce you to a prospective new client or business partner?

How would you want to be introduced to someone who has needs that are a *perfect* fit with your best skills and deepest expertise?

How would you want to be introduced to someone who already has the trust of 614 people who would greatly benefit from what you do?

What conversation about you would motivate the perfect prospective client feel the need to contact you immediately?

Is your website doing these things?

Advertising Business culture Competition Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Direct Marketing Marketing Positioning Restaurants Retail service Small Business Strategy websites

Shane 0, Comcast 0. No one wins when you offer loser customer service

Creative Commons License photo credit: Amir K.

Shane over at mentioned to me a while back about an interaction he had with Comcast.

Yes, I’ve seen the litany of “Comcast sucks” threads, and I’m aware that they have a support team on Twitter.

First, mosey over to AskShane and read about his experience with Comcast. Then come back so we can discuss how this applies to your business.

Mark hums the Jeopardy theme song as you read Shane’s story

Ok, welcome back.

Think about the obvious stuff your website should be telling people.

Think about the message it sends about your company when everyday information that your customers and prospects need is hidden from them.

Worse case, does the site lose them by assuming what they know?

Yeah, it’s worse when they can’t get it by website or phone (as in Shane’s case), but more and more folks depend on the net to start the relationship.

In more and more cases, it’s the bellwether that signals whether they will do business with you at all.

Maybe you don’t do business via your site, but if your site doesn’t introduce you, your company and what you do properly, many will leave right then and there and choose someone whose site does get the message across.

Fairness is irrelevant

Is that fair? Doesn’t matter.

If a prospect uses that as their “sorting hat” to decide whether your company has its game on, you made the decision for them.

Can we depend on your site to start the relationship properly?

To get the right message – and the right info – across to someone new to you?

Paper is so 1900’s…or is it?

This isn’t just about your website. What about your other “new prospect-facing materials”?

Yeah, those business cards, paper brochures and so on.

Are they doing the job of introducing your business to others? Or are they just something with your phone #, website and email address on them?

Direct Marketing Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing Media Politics Small Business Social Media Technology Web 2.0 websites

Rhetoric, “privacy” and those Presidential campaign email lists

About a year ago, I ran some tests to see how clued in re: email use and mobile/internet marketing each Presidential campaign was.

Each campaign got an email address all to themselves, one that I use for no other purpose so that I could track what their campaign did. In fact, the candidate name was the part before the @ sign in the email address – hard to mistake for another campaign:)

One of the reasons I didn’t leave the lists after the election: I wanted to see what they did with the lists after the campaign – something you should be very aware of as you build an email list in your business.

Here’s a summary of what happened:

Ron Paul

The Ron Paul list ended up in the hands of a number of what I would categorize as “freedom fighter” lists as well as on Mr. Paul’s fundraising list. The email from this list was of such volume and high rhetoric that I finally had to unsubscribe out of annoyance: the interruption factor was just too high. Examples include the “Free Foundation” (Mr. Paul’s Foundation for Rational Economics and Education) and “Campaign for Liberty”.

I wasn’t asked to opt-in, they simply included me on their list because that email address specific to Ron Paul’s campaign was on Paul’s Presidential campaign list. They had it, they used it. I suspect someone there simply hasn’t taken the time to understand the written (and unwritten) rules/laws about email marketing, opt-in, etc.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary’s list ended up in the hands of HillaryPAC (which may be on hiatus now that she is U.S. Secretary of State) and while I was sent an email from Hillary’s list asking me to sign up for the “American Democracy Institute” ( list, I wasn’t added to it without permission. The same type of attempt was made by MediaMatters. Since she was named SoS, no emails have been sent by anyone to this Hillary-specific address, which makes sense:)

John McCain

McCain’s list ended up going to the Republican National Committee (RNC). That one probably annoys me the most because it is most like the lists related to Mr. Paul’s original campaign email list. I now get emails about Norm Chapman and any other issue RNC Chairman Richard Steele thinks I simply must know about – and in a tone that is just about unreadable. Think “National Enquirer” with a little Rosanne Rosannadanna added in, along with an Obama-esque donation button at the bottom.

Barack Obama

Obama’s list appears to still be in the campaign’s hands (yes, he’s still campaigning, but that’s a post for someone else’s blog), as I’ve received nothing from other lists to that address.

Mitt Romney

Last but not least, the list from Mitt Romney: Amazingly, I havent received a single email from his list since he quit the campaign and it appears that his campaign didn’t give the list to anyone else.

Treat them like customers, not list members

With the exception of Mr. Paul’s list (primarily because of the volume), I’ve decided to remain on these lists to see what happens to these specific-to-the-campaign email addresses as time moves forward.

How you treat your customers’ email addresses will reflect back upon you. Stay on topic, stay on message and NEVER, EVER give your list to another vendor, business or associate.

What Hillary did (sending an email to her list, suggesting that you might check out another entity) is somewhat common – and still acceptable – business practice, but automatically signing up your customers to umpteen other lists as Mr. Paul’s campaign people did is not.