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email marketing &viral marketing Martin Lee on 29 Jun 2007 02:59 pm

Vonage Email Marketing Disaster

A couple of days ago, I was reading a post on my email autoresponder provider Aweber about an email marketing campaign by Vonage that went awfully wrong.

I’m sure you would have seen those “tell-a-friend” forms being used on many websites. These forms look innocent enough. You refer your friend to a website that you like using the form and your friend gets an email telling them about your recommendation.

Of late, marketers have been using incentives to get people to fill in those forms in an attempt to create a viral marketing campaign. Even I myself was using that.

And that should be the end of the story. Any website using those forms should not make use of the email addresses that were provided to them in any other way. But no.

What Vonage did was that they not only emailed the referred person a long time later, they even did so in the name of the person who provided the email address. Imagine refering your friend to a website, and years later your friend receives an email in your name recommending that service without you even knowing it!

This borders not just on an invasion of privacy, but personally I think it’s close to being fraudulent. Don’t ever do this if you are using those tell-a-friend forms!

For those of you who have used my “tell-a-friend” form before, don’t worry as I do not keep a record of the email addresses you submitted. In fact, I have even decided to stop using the “tell-a-friend” form. Why?

The main reason is that these forms could also be used by spammers (using automated bots) to spam people. If this ever happens, the entire website might even get shutdown.

So, no more tell-a-friend form on my site. If someone likes my site, they can refer it to your friends by all means. And I’m sure they know how to do so with or without any form on it.

One last thing. If you are using Aweber, take note that they do not allow any of their users to use these tell-a-friend forms. They have to do this to prevent any complaints that might jeopardize their good relationships (which ensures their email gets through) with the major ISPs.

7 Responses to “Vonage Email Marketing Disaster”

  1. on 29 Jun 2007 at 8:10 pm 1.Arthur Rego said …

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks again for providing value and good advice.



  2. on 30 Jun 2007 at 1:05 am 2.Jag said …

    Hi Martin,

    Good post.

    Email marketing is a wonderful marketing weapon, but when abused, it can be a nightmare.

    I have a tell a friend script, and am still considering if I should use it, as I’m unsure of its viral capabilities.

    I might still give it a shot, but will be careful on how I’m gonna use it after reading your post.


  3. on 30 Jun 2007 at 1:06 pm 3.Paul said …

    Thanks for the information. I used one of these forms the other day.

  4. on 02 Jul 2007 at 11:00 am 4.Martin Lee said …

    The interesting thing is that despite what all the major autoresponder companies say, the internet marketers are still using still such forms.

    “Tell 3 friends about this site and get the extra bonus.”

    At this present moment, it still works like gangbusters.

  5. on 04 Jul 2007 at 2:14 am 5.Martin Lee said …

    Hi Jag, you might want to note that Aweber do NOT allow their users to use such scripts even if your tell a friend destination page is not your optin page.

    They are afraid of such a site being used for spam, getting spam complaints as result and being associated with the spammer.

    They are being overly cautious but in a way, it helps to protect Aweber users. You can read the lengthy discussions on this viral script issue at aweber.

  6. on 09 Jul 2007 at 10:48 am 6.Vivienne Quek said …

    Hmmm, certainly food for thoughts. To think that we are advised by certain internet guru to include the tell-a-friend feature in our blogs …

  7. on 09 Jul 2007 at 11:12 am 7.Martin Lee said …

    Hi Vivienne,

    Yes, it’s really a very dicely situation. Until there’s a major legal fallout, many people will continue to use it as it gives them free traffic.

    At least the internet marketers practice what they preach. They use it themselves and tell others to do the same.

    So I think they are all acting aboveboard.

    At the end of the day, we will have to weigh the pros and cons to decide whether we want to use it ourselves.

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