What are stick emails?

Lisa Blitzer writes: “What is a stick email?  My email guy said our provider is insisting upon us doing one but I looked it up on Google and couldn’t find a thing so they must not be all that popular.  From the way my guy explained it, it sounds craptastic to me.”

Hi Lisa:

Ah…  Stick emails.   You’re right.  They suck.

Stick emails (aka confirms or COE’s) are only called this by a few ESP’s which is probably why you couldn’t find information on Google.  Sticks are emails that you send out to get your subscribers to confirm that they want to be on your list.  Some providers make you email everyone and others make you mail only the inactive names (for example, people who haven’t opened or clicked on your emails within x months.)  Here’s an example of a stick email I recently received.  (For the record, I absolutely adore Carl at TicketPro – he’s one of the ONLY ticket brokers I’d recommend.  The fact that they sent out a stick email has no bearing on what I think of them as a company – they rock.)

Several of the free/cheap providers insist that you do them once or twice a year.

I am not a fan.  From my perspective, they’re terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things as I’ve seen a lot of companies lose 40 to 60 percent of their names by doing them.  In fact, I’ve even seen one company go from about 200,000 names to about 4,000.  Yes, 200K to 4K. 

Are they all that terrible?  No.  But I’d recommend doing things like ECOA (email change of address) instead.  Nobody wants to mail garbage names but there are lots of better ways to skin the cat than making everyone commit again.  Just ask married people if they’d do it all over again and watch them hesitate for a second!

If you must do them (as in your provider requires it), I’d recommend using an offer with a deadline.  I’m not a big fan of giving away money for nothing but you really need to pull out all the stops when it comes to saving your email addresses.  Deadlines create urgency and they cause people to focus.

Which brings me to one of the most frequently asked questions I get about stick e-mails – “my provider says these kind of emails only get rid of the junk names from my list and that they’re perfectly fine, why do you despise them so?”

Here’s the thing.  All providers lie through their teeth about their deliverability.  Yes, even the best ones.  Many of them don’t do this intentionally, the truth is that they just don’t really know what happens to your names once they get to the inboxes.  In other words, if my email is sent directly to your trash – it’s still delivered.  

If you send out an email that the user doesn’t receive, they can’t respond.  Obviously.  This is a big deal for stick emails because they are legal documents.  In other words, if I tell you that I won’t email you unless you say you want my emails, I have to abide by that.  If you don’t receive my stick email and thus don’t tell me?  Sorry about my luck – I technically should not mail you again.  (Thus my biggest problem with stick emails.)

By the way, remember, when you are sending out any email, spend some time on the things that are “outside the envelope.”  (This includes the to address, from address, subject line, format and you guessed it, deliverability!)

Have a question about sticks?  Jot it in the comments below or email me at info@amyafrica.com!


  1. Mike McCormick says

    Hi Amy,
    Is it permissible to do the opposite – after an ECOA, send an email offering the opportunity to opt out (rather than re-opt in)?

  2. says

    Hi Mike -

    When you send out the first ECOA email, you typically ONLY get the people who want to hear from you. (If you use a reputable service, you pay ONLY for the people who are still interested in your emails.) So yes, it is permissible but it’s not usually necessary.

    Hope this helps. Thanks for writing!

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