Spam is spam

One of my favorite blogs is written by Seth Godin, and one of the points that he keeps coming back to is Permission Marketing: Says Mr. Godin: “by reaching out only to those individuals who have signaled an interest in learning more about a product, Permission Marketing enables companies to develop long-term relationships with customers, create trust, build brand awareness — and greatly improve the chances of making a sale.”

And what this boils down to is that in marketing, as in other aspects of life, if you treat customers with respect, they’ll respect you.

So how does email fit into this? Marketers love email: it’s cheap, it’s instant, and it’s a great way to stay in touch with their customers. Marketers who respect me have me opt in to receive emails, email me on a regular basis, but don’t overdo it, and allow me to opt out whenever I want. If they’re smart, they learn about what I like and email me accordingly, but I don’t hold it against them if they don’t. I’ll simply reward the ones that do by reading what they send me. They also never ever give my email address away to anyone else. Never.

Email is so easy to abuse. The spammer reasons that email cost nothing to send so any response is a profit! Bombard millions of addresses with a message, maybe thousands will read it and a few hundred will actually buy whatever it is you’re selling. The math is seductive. Respect for customers doesn’t enter into the equation because the spammers are not looking to build an ongoing relationship with you. They’re looking to create a one-time purchase.

What happens when a legitimate cause is tempted to use spam to gather support? What happens when a charity that simply doesn’t know any better decides to buy a list of email addresses and email those people without permission? Should we look beyond the shady approach and try to disassociate the means from the cause?

I hardly ever respond to an unsolicited email, no matter who the sender is.  My advice: charities, hire the right people. Even if you’re doing great work, respect your potential donors.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, do you think you can get your telemarketers to stop calling me during dinner? Thanks!

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