A recent discussion on Spam on the Enterprise Ireland eBusiness list caught my attention.
The jist of it is, if you send a really wonderful, relevant special offer to someone who did not subscribe but is interested, is it spam? It is a question that comes up again and again, and it is a realy good one. Sender is happy, receiver is happy. How can you lose?
From a person in the discussion:
>> If an Irish hosting provider sent targeted “special deal” emails to
>> Irish companies offering them great savings on their annual hosting,
>> what certain people would classify as “spam”, how many companies do you
>> think would object to being informed about the deal? I’d
>> say very few. <<
It is a strong and valid point. But it is flawed, short term thinking. I replied with the following and posted it here as it is worth sharing.
There are three definitions of Spam.
1. The Law in Ireland
You can send to another business or customer without permission. You must provide unsubscribe information and remove them if requested.
See also UK andUSA CAN-SPAM Act.
2. The ‘Subscriber’
If the person receiving the email thinks it is spam then to them it is spam. This can be because they didn’t sign up, they don’t remember signing up or they are just no longer interested. Unfortunately, for the sender email clients now have a big shiny “This is spam” button.
Statistics have shown that more people click the “Spam” button then the “Unsubscribe” link if they want to stop receiving a mail. Unfortunate but true.
3. The Hosting company, The ISP’s, Spam Filters and the Email Client.
If enough ’subscribers’ hit the “This is Spam” button then to all those listed above your email is spam. This then means that any legitimate email from your company and domain might also be marked as spam.
My thoughts on the above
While you might get away with sending unsolicited email for a while, it seems to me that the numbers are against you over time. Secondly, I don’t understand why you would risk annoying even some of your customers. Don’t you want them all to buy from you? It doesn’t make sense when there are better ways to market your product or services to them.
Thirdly, why on earth would you risk damaging a vital communication channel to your business. The thought that legitimate emails, quotes, and especially invoices being sent to the spam folder (if they even get through) is a scary one.
Now just after posting the above comes a report that shows that one third of consumers admitted to responding to a message they suspected might be spam. The report from MAAWG (Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group) is the result of an eight hundred person survey conducted in December of 2008. 1 in 3. That’s a big market. So does that mean everything I wrote above is rubbish? Not quite.
You business needs to survive past one mail shot and one sale. You need to build a relationship with your customers to get them coming back. The more you build your reputation and trust the more a customer will buy from you and the more they are willing to pay in one transaction.
A client of ours tried the Spam route in a previous life. And the amazing thing is that it worked… for a while. He and his business partner started a dating site. A great business. Low maintenance and pretty much runs itself after a while generating revenue. Now the problem with dating sites is to attract customers you need lots of potential dates in the database. But you can’t get the dates in the database without having dates in the database. And no one is going to pay for an empty site. It’s a vicious circle.
So they took what seemed the obvious and easy route and bought a list of 1 million email addresses and sent them an email. Response was about 1% which was fantastic for them. Instantly they had a database of dates and the business was up and running.
But then the complaints started, blog and forum posts started about the spamming warning people to stay clear of this company. These sites and blogs were around a lot longer then my clients site so they started to rank above his listing in search results. In the end the effect was devastating and the site had to close.
Now my client is not a bad man, he didn’t think it was spam, just a great offer. The people who responded thought it was a great offer. Who knows, some of them may have found love, got married and had kids. However enough people did think it was spam to bring the business to its knees.
We always say to clients, spam is in the eye of the beholder. Forget what you think of your email, what will the receiver think of the mail. If you have any doubt, do not send.