Getting Emails at Gunpoint: One Company’s Big Blunder

Oh my.

Just when you think you’ve seen everything as an email marketing vendor, you get surprised. Shocked even.

Just when you think every marketer under the sun has at least some inkling of email marketing best practices and list building, along comes a shocker.

Here’s the shocker I just experienced: being forced, literally forced, to hand over an email address to a company I did not know at all. While on Facebook, an ad to the right caught my eye. Now, I don’t normally pay any attention to the ads, but this one had a photo of a chair that looked really sharp and I wanted to know more. That’s the point of the ad, right?

Clicking on the ad brought me to the website home page, but also a popup box that would not go away….until I entered my email address. Without letting me get any kind of taste for their website or products, and in particular their pricing, this company was forcing me to hand over my email address, utterly clueless as to what I might get in return.

That’s akin to asking someone to hand over money for something they’re not only sure they want to buy, but something they don’t even know exists!

I—being knowledgeable about email marketing as an email marketing vendor—tried every work around I could think of. I tried reloading the page. I tried entering the URL in a new tab. I tried clicking on links like the About page. But there was absolutely no way around it. There was no way into the website without entering an email address. It felt like handing over an email address at gunpoint.

So what did I do? I made one up. Yep, I made up an email address and a bogus passwords and voila! I got into the site. I only wanted to look at the chair and see a bigger picture of it (you know how tiny the images are in those Facebook ads!). And I did. Then closed that tab and won’t ever go back to that site again. No way, no how. That is not the kind of company I want to buy from, and I doubt they are the only ones who sell that chair, so I don’t have to.

By forcing a prospect to enter an email address before being allowed into their website for even a tiny taste, this company is both losing potential customers and building a really crappy in-house email list…especially if others enter fake email addresses like I did.

Beyond the fake emails, only a portion of the email addresses they do collect will fall into the category of quality (not quantity) because these aren’t necessarily people who want to hear from this company in the future. They are only people who want to take a look at the website. After perusing the website, a person can make an informed decision about whether or not to hand over an email address. Only after sampling the site and products can a person say “yes” to hearing from them again.

Most companies don’t go to such an extreme to demand an email address, thank goodness! So we as an email marketing vendor aren’t telling this story to teach any lessons. But it is a good example of how much room to improve this industry offers…and how you can get a leg up over the competition by putting away that gun and adhering to the best of the best email best practices, building a quality in-house list, high delivery rate and wonderful ROI—instead of ill will.

Published On: June 4th, 2012Categories: Miscellaneous email marketing topics

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

Recent Posts