Monday, March 06, 2006

Is a personalized email message to a stranger spam?

In a recent Quick Tip from Marketing Mentor, I shared a simple strategy for getting the email address of a prospect whose phone number you have.

One reader questioned that strategy and said I was advocating spam. So I ask you -- do you consider it spam if a stranger sends you a message introducing themselves and their services? Does it matter how personalized the message is? If you can tell they've spent some time researching your company and your needs, does that make any difference?

7 Comments:

Anonymous Lisa J. Lehr said...

Ilise,
This is a good question and one that I'm somewhat wrestling with, from both sides.
Recently, I received an e-mail from a mortgage broker, which I promptly reported as spam and deleted. Later that day, I saw her ad in my newspaper--and realized she was local.
So then I e-mailed her, explained my reaction to her e-mail, and offered some marketing tips. (Unfortunately my e-mail bounced back.) But to me, the difference was in whether I had some connection with this person or not.
Now, as I contemplate doing my own e-mail marketing, I'm trying to figure out how NOT to be considered a spammer.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Tor Butterfield said...

I think the words personalized and spam do not belong in the same sentence. My definition of spam is marketing email directed to a large recipient list. An email directed to an individual with original text and variable text (not simply addressed to the reciepient) therefor can not be spam. One extra comment: be sure to read and proofread the personalized email sent to the dream client to be sure it is seamless, as showing any weakness (even a typo) could keep you from landing him/her.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Krishna Avva said...

I agree with Tor Butterfield. If you personalize it and don't mass mail it, it's not spam. the recipient has the choice of deleting your one email. If you follow-up (which you should be doing), maybe the follow-up should be voice, so that you can verify whether the recipient wants to hear from you.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous holy cow! said...

There are different categories of email:

- SPAM (think watches and pharma)
- TARGETED (like your email example)
- REQUESTED (newsletters, etc.)

Targeted, while not not requested can still be okay to receive. In fact if I had received the email you had sent, I'd probably call (maybe that's just because I can always us all the help I can get). It not only speaks to what I do but it offers something I could use.

BUT...send it one and follow up with a phone call. If it's a dead end, then let it go...otherwise it could easily become SPAM.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Nigel Gordijk said...

Once again, another interesting newsletter.

However, you may be interested to know that the in the European Union, the type of email campaign that you describe may well be in contravention of European law. Here's an article from the BBC News Web site from December 2003, when the EU spam laws changed: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3308989.stm.

You mentioned: "Certainly, if you add a prospect's email address to a list and send regular messages (even your newsletter) without permission, that is spam. But if you use the email address to send a personal message tailored to this new "dream" prospect, that, in my book, is not spam."

However, the BBC article states: "(New European) laws make it a criminal offence to send e-mails... unless the recipient has agreed in advance to accept them."

I realise that the laws in the US and EU differ. Often, British clients ask me to add a field to a form that asks users to click on a tick box if they do not wish to receive mailings. However, I have to point out to them that in the EU people have to actively opt in, not out.

Just thought I'd bring this to your attention because I know you have an international audience and that the spam laws may differ around the world. It's worth checking what local laws apply before sending any unsolicited messages, even if it isn't via a mailing list.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other than the 'vehicle' used to send the 'message', how does this type of personalized email differ from sending a letter via snail mail?

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Lisa J. Lehr said...

That's a good question. I'd say that the difference is that people have to make a much bigger investment--time, money--in sending a huge quantity of postal mail.

One could easily send thousands of offensive e-mails in one click, with no more effort than it takes to send one.

So the snail mail, being more "risky" to the sender, is more likely something that the receiver wants.

2:13 PM  

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