What exactly is spam? We are all well aware of the blue canned variety, but I’m talking about what Merriam Webster defines as:
• irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients.
• unwanted or intrusive advertising on the Internet: [as modifier]: an autogenerated spam website.
verb [with obj.]
• send the same message indiscriminately to (large numbers of recipients) on the Internet.
The problem is, what does one person consider “irrelevant or inappropriate” vs. another?
Say I’m a dog lover and receive a mass email about the best new pet product since collars were invented – the Wag-a-Lot*. Would I consider it spam or useful information? I’d be thrilled to hear about it and most likely want to know more. On the flip side, I hate dogs and find the email intrusive, so I unsubscribe immediately and glare at my computer with disdain.
As marketers and communicators, there is a fine line between spam and useful information. In fact, “spam” can be useful sometimes as noted in the scenario above. There should be no issue with emailing someone who has opted into receiving notices from you. Even if they didn’t read the fine print that they would receive such information when they entered a contest, for example. And most would agree it is fair game to email them once or twice; after all, that is why there is an unsubscribe option on the bottom of every email.
Where the communication breaks down and a noble intent turns into true spam, is when you break the trust of the consumer you are trying to win over. If I hate dogs and you keep emailing me about the Wag-a-Lot – even after I’ve unsubscribed (which is TOTALLY annoying), then you are wasting both of our time. I’m going to now badmouth your company across the Internet while you misspend your time trying to convert me to a sale…because I HATE DOGS! (I actually love dogs; I’m just playing devil’s advocate here.)
No longer are you a trusted marketer and brand; you are a stalker, plain and simple. In order to gain customers, and even more importantly, loyal customers, you need to respect their space. Why? Because who knows, one day I may hate dogs and the next day I’m saved from carbon monoxide poisoning by a neighbor’s dog - and I fall madly in love. Then I need a Wag-a-Lot and promptly proceed to your competition.
Make friends, customers, and future customers with your campaigns, not spamenemies. Respect their “no” and their space. Your business will be healthier and more robust because you will focus on the folks that want to hear from you for a better return on your investment.
*Wag-a-Lot is a fictitious product, although my three dogs qualify.