Spam (junk e-mail) has been in the news again recently. The FTC recently busted some companies who sent out spam that promised a free PlayStation 2 (R) game console. It was a scam that directed victims to a bogus Web site where they had to first download some software. Once the software was installed, it dialed out to a porn connection at some ridiculous per-minute charge. I don't know how these morons thought they would get away with such blatant fraud. As you can imagine, it certainly caused quite a stir, particularly when you consider that the target market for the PlayStation is a child.
The news story got me thinking about spam again, so I thought I'd share some thoughts on the matter from a Web business perspective and a personal perspective.
Marketing a Web site effectively can be difficult. In other articles, I've talked about some of the ways you can promote your site, but I usually recommend that businesses stay away from hiring a spammer to send unsolicited marketing messages via e-mail. Why is that? What's the difference between getting a piece of junk mail in your mailbox and getting a piece of junk e-mail in your inbox? Not much, really. They're both annoying. But at least you know the company reaching you through your physical mailbox had to spend some real money to do so, and is less likely to be a fly-by-night scam artist.
The fact is, I have never spoken with anyone who likes spam. Some people have very strong negative feelings about it and would like to hurt the people who send it. If I had an easy way to record the name of every company who sent me spam, I would make an effort to boycott those companies. I started my own personal blacklist at one point, but it just became too cumbersome to maintain.
And there's the rub. Somebody out there is foolishly buying from these people. Spam will only go away when the cost of sending it outweighs the income generated from it. The best way to wage your own battle in the war against spam is to refuse to do business with any company who sends it. Never respond to spam, even if you are interested in the product or service it advertises. You are just making the problem worse.
>From a business perspective, spam is a bad marketing technique because it destroys customer trust and actively turns people against you. Those people have friends that they will turn against you too. It just doesn't make sense to use spam when there are so many other alternatives available to you.
Does this mean e-mail is a bad marketing medium? Absolutely not. The e-zine you are reading now contains marketing messages. However, you are getting CC Tips because you subscribed to it. You had to "opt in," and you can remove yourself from the list whenever you choose to do so. Also, the marketing messages are not the only thing you get. If you have been with us for a while, it is probably because you like the (hopefully) useful content we provide. By the way, thanks for your support!
Responsible e-mail marketers use the opt-in approach. Customers will even sign up for pure advertising content, if that content is relevant to their lifestyle and purchasing decisions. But you always want to leave the customer in control of the information flow.
I should probably make one final comment regarding the spam you receive: Don't bother trying to remove yourself from their e-mail list. Most requests to unsubscribe are ignored, or they are used as a verification mechanism by the spammer to prove your e-mail address is a live one. Your best bet is to just delete the message and get on with your life.
Oh, and my apologies to those of you out there who love the Spam food product. I'll bet that spam in the inbox is still gross to you, even if Spam on the plate is yummy.