Bob Richards is bitter about the US$14,000 his company blew on a list of e-mail addresses to market its services.
The 2-year-old company, Javelin Marketing, is located in Concord, California, and sells promotional material for independent financial planners, said Richards, who is the marketing director.
Javelin, which has 15 employees, uses e-mail and other methods to contact potential customers. In the past, it had maintained its own carefully manicured e-mail database that was used in compliance with U.S. law.
But maintaining an e-mail database is a lot of work. Richards received an e-mail from a company, Emailappenders, that sells e-mail addresses belonging to people in certain industries who have opted in to receive marketing pitches.
Richards said he thought the list would be an easy way to reach a lot of people. Javelin had never bought an e-mail list before, but Richards said he had seen a lot of advice on blogs telling companies to steer clear of lists due to problems. But he called a few of Emailappenders' customers -- provided by the company -- prior to ordering. All were satisfied.
Javelin paid $14,000 and received 135,000 e-mail addresses, which Richards said he thought was a reasonable deal, even if only half were good. Richards said Javelin contracted with a company to send the e-mail, SwiftPage.
Richards said SwiftPage is very careful to ensure it is not linked to spammy activity, and that its domain is not put on a blacklist used to stop e-mail from certain servers, a common spam-fighting technique. It's one of many third-party companies that will send e-mail on the behalf of others, a sort of FedEx or DHL for e-mail.
After SwiftPage sent 100,000 e-mails, around 85,000 bounced back and were routed to Javelin's servers. "It actually clogged our e-mail server," said Richards, who had to delete Javelin's inbox. "There were so many bounces coming back so quickly, other mail couldn't get through."
SwiftPage then gave Javelin the boot. "I cannot blame them for their position, given they have to protect their reputation in the e-mail space as they can't risk having this happen. One client could create a lot of problems," Richards said.
Emailappenders guaranteed a 70 percent deliverability rate, but it turned out to be less than 15 percent, Richards said. Javelin issued a press release on the fiasco on Tuesday.
Richards' complaint was handled in part by Ian Cooper, Emailappenders' president of business development. In e-mail correspondence earlier this month, Cooper maintained to Richards that 69 percent of the addresses were verified, with 21 percent of those experiencing a "soft bounce," which can occur if an inbox is full or not deliverable at that time.
Emailappenders has offered to run other combinations of e-mail campaigns but so far been uncommitted on a refund. Cooper was not available for immediate comment.
Richards, who said he's had trouble reaching Cooper lately, said he's just finished and wants his money back.
"I kind of learned my lesson," Richards said. "I'm convinced that the only way to do it [compile an e-mail list] is ... you've got to do it the hard way and develop all of the mechanisms necessary to have people opt in to your own sites."
E-mail lists offered by vendors seem "way too suspect," Richards said.