Spamming Won’t Work! (written July, 2005)

No matter what you read, the fact is that bulk e-mail marketing – spamming won’t work! I suggest you go for the ‘opt-in’ list!

I recently had a problem. My Internet Service Provider (ISP) had threatened to terminate my account. “What did I do wrong?” “I just e-mailed to addresses I bought and told them about my business.” Unfortunately for me several people who received my e-mails complained to the ISP that I had “spammed” them. They are called “flames.”

So what the heck is spam? It’s an unsolicited e-mail, that’s what, and most reputable ISP’s have adopted a zero tolerance policy against spamming, which means they’ll cut off any customer who does it.

For many entrepreneurs first getting on the Internet, it’s tempting to send a flood of e-mails to the 57 million people with Internet access. Who hasn’t longed for an easy way to market their product or promote their company? You know statistically that some of those 57 million could be interested in your service. Hang out on the web long enough, and before you know it, someone will send you an e-mail offering 500,000 e-mail addresses for just pennies a name. Compare that price to a traditional direct-mail campaign with printing and postage costs, and sending out e-mail starts to look very attractive.

Bad news! While it’s tempting to send bulk e-mails, resist the temptation! It doesn’t work! I sent over 1,500,000 spam mails and got zero response! Zero! The only ones who make money off it are the ones who sell these e-addresses lists. Don’t make the same mistake I made!

Let’s face it! Spamming can result in severe consequences. Not only do you risk losing your Internet access, but you can also expect an endless stream of threatening phone calls, hundreds of pizzas arriving at your home, a fax machine gone haywire, and some smart-aleck hackers e-mailing you computer viruses. You might also find to your horror that various Internet newsgroups have blackballed your company because of your spam.

Don’t think for a minute that such retribution is reserved for small fries like you and me. Symantec corp. (of Norton Utilities and Antivirus fame) once sent out an unsolicited e-mail promoting a new product, enraging its own and potential customers, who posted angry notices with various Internet newsgroups and mailing lists. Symantec quickly retreated with a “sincere apology” to the Internet community, claiming a “procedural oversight” had generated the spam.

Fortunately there are much better ways to promote your company via e-mail. Done right, e-mail marketing can reap tremendous rewards. The key is to use what’s called an “opt-in.” As the name implies, it refers to people who “opt” to receive e-mails on a particular subject.

You can create opt-in lists several ways, including through your company’s website. Encourage your visitors to give you their name or at least their e-mail address. Armed with this information, you can begin building a relationship with them using the web. E-mail becomes a tool to help establish this relationship.

You can easily build your opt-in list. You can encourage someone to leave you his or her e-address with some sort of giveaway. On the web people want and expect something for free. However free doesn’t necessarily mean expensive to you. Free can also refer to something that your business can easily produce. It could mean something as simple as writing about a concept in your profession or industry and offering to send it free to interested prospects; or encouraging visitors to sign up for your company’s newsletters.

This way when you send out e-mails, you’ll actually be sending them to people who want to receive them and your response will improve and your complaints will decrease. Take my word for it. I am living proof!

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.