Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Business Spam

Our Proofpoint Spam filters remove the Nigerian businessmen and Viagra ads from my email stack.   However, it's really challenging to auto-delete legitimate business email from major companies that I would just rather not read.

Business Spam (BS) is what I call the endless stream of chaff filling my inbox with sales and marketing fluff.  If a colleague emails me about a cool new emerging technology, I'm happy.   If a trusted business partner gives me a preview of a new product and offers me the opportunity to beta test it, I'm thrilled.  If Bob at XYZ.com describes their cloud-based, software as service, offshore, outsourced, app store compliant product line that's compiled in powerpoint (i.e. does not yet exist except in sales and marketing materials), I press delete as fast as I can.

Since there are multiple domains that can be used to reach me - bidmc.harvard.edu, caregroup.harvard.edu, caregroup.org etc. many email list sellers vend 5 or 6 variations of my email address, resulting in 5 or 6 copies of each life changing offer in my inbox.

Now I know why some say email is dead.   Email is a completely democratic medium.  Anyone can email anyone.  There are no ethical or common sense filters.  The result is that Business Spam will soon outnumber my legitimate email.

Social networking architectures offer an alternative.   I'm on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo etc.   In those applications, individuals request access to me.   Based on their relationships to my already trusted colleagues and my assessment of their character, I either allow or deny access.  Once I "friend" them, appropriate communications can flow. If the dialog becomes burdensome or inappropriate, I can "block" them.

In order to stay relevant, email needs to incorporate social networking-like features.   It should be easy to block individuals, companies, or domains that I do not want to hear from.   Today, when a vendor ignores my pleas to remove me from their emailing list (demonstrating a lack of compliance with anti-spamming policies), I ask our email system administrator to blacklist their entire domain, preventing the flow of their Business Spam across the enterprise.

For those of you who use unsolicited business email as a marketing technique, beware.   Your message is not only diluted by the sheer volume of companies generating Business Spam, but it also creates a negative impression among your recipients.

My advice - send your customers a newsletter describing your products and services.  Ask them to opt in to receive future messages.  If they do not respond, stop sending them.   It's just a like a Facebook request - you pick your friends and your friends pick you.

The alternative is that all your communications will be deemed Business Spam and blocked at the front door.    Do you really want all your customers to say your emails are BS (Business Spam)?


Bruce Fryer said...

I have two email accounts. One of them I use for business only. Only I'm getting a lot of BS after attending a couple of conferences .

It would be interesting to take Doc Searls VRM work at Harvard and apply it to business email. Hmmm, I'm sensing a business opportunity.

Dean said...

I have the same problem with calls from people all the time trying to sell me products that dont have the remotest bearing on the business. Regardless of this fact being conveyed to the vendors, there is still a push that I consider the products simply because its "the latest thing in the market" and will "slash your licensing costs by 70%"

Given that Fiji is such a small place, I can understand that getting an ICT business to stay afloat can be a little challenging but if you're going to push too hard, nothing will happen. There is a particular ICT solutions provider here from India who hounds people at social events and tries to do business on the spot. That sort of behavior leaves a bad impression particularly when they start demanding your mobile number and email address.

Marketers need to understand that while they have an idea to sell for revenue, there is a need to acquire the "get the hint" skill and use it appropriately. While we haven't yet started being inundated with "spam" ideas, etc. I sense it is only a matter of time when I will have the same issues as you and will need to really get serious about the email inflow.