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Opt in or Opt out – when a useful service resembles spam

How not to deal with leads. I left my business card at an aging services event recently – and someone at the company was assigned to do something with it. Their approach, contact me through a robo-call to enroll me in their message broadcasting service that was not appropriate for my type of business.  The authoritative recorded voice threaded its way through a description and finally spelled out the menu choices – if you want to hear more (about this lengthily described offering), press 4. But I didn’t want to hear more, so I waited for more choices, pressed another option and was led to another option, and finally got a recorded voice of a specific person (this was during business hours) for me to leave a message with information that would enable my number to be removed.

So now, not only no sale, no endorsement, but…I won’t forget the company.  And we’re not talking about a fond memory, since it took quite a bit of time to rewind and understand the offer and how to reply – still no person, then a call (recording) and then a look at the website where they suggested it was easier to opt out there – after providing them with more contact information than just phone number.  So at this point, I am fuming, contemplating the various ways I could express my irritation about a company that won’t put a live person on the phone. Even the airlines are better than that!

By definition, we should be opted out until we agree.  Customers are fragile people with no loyalty these days: on the one hand they can just buy the product or service – oh well. On the other hand, they can get angry and use one of a gazillion online ways to vent.  That’s actually much worse than not buying – it’s placing a reputation that now needs recovery at the mercy of Twitter, online ratings, and a chat with the press (like The Haggler in the New York Times). It’s one thing to leave a message and quite another to force entry into a complex call tree to find the ‘No Thank You’ option: ‘If you don’t wish to receive further contact’, call this number or go to this website – that’s not the way to end a prospecting interaction.

Which brings me to e-mail.  I write quite a bit online – and over the past few years, the volume of unsolicited offerings and contacts has grown. For each of these broadcasted  ‘newsletters’ and marketing sagas that I didn’t request and decide I don't want, I scroll to the bottom of the document to see if there is an ‘unsubscribe’ link -- frequently it's not there. If a name has been ‘acquired’ by merging in lists of e-mail addresses, unclog the Internet by asking specifically if they want to read more of this material in the future – the ‘unsubscribe’ option. And it should be one click and gone.


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There are actually federal guidelines regarding email messages:
In short, the email sender must provide a clear option for the recipient to opt out and must honor that request within 30 days.

While many of us may be guilty of sending our newsletters (purely informative or not) to a very wide audience, the key is following the guidelines that are laid out. Allow your potential readers to tell you whether the information you have is valuable or not. If you receive a lot of unsubscribe responses, then you may need to change either your audience or your message (probably your message).


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