I personally responded with a simple email:
Don’t SPAM us with your … ‘opportunities’ anymore. Especially via our new business inquiries form.
This set off a nuclear reaction of emails: A curt message from the rep telling me “Obviously you cannot see a good ‘opportunity’ when it walks right up to you” which—as you might expect—resulted in a pretty direct response to him—and his boss.
His boss didn’t respond the way I expected. He was pissed I called them spammers, and said as much.
I won’t get into the details, but after the smoke cleared, it became apparent that their aggression came from the fact that they hate spammers as much as we do—and I had the audacity to call them one when they believed they clearly weren’t.
We obviously had a big difference of opinion:
To me, this was spam because:
- I didn’t want it.
- I didn’t like getting it.
- I didn’t opt-in to receive it.
- I wanted to make sure I was perfectly clear I didn’t want to receive another message from them again.
To them, it wasn’t spam because:
- Their message was targeted
- They believed it was relevant
- They didn’t realize the form went to several people
This brings up a Responsible Marketing question:
When do unsolicited messages become spam?
E-mail spam, also known as “bulk e-mail” or “junk e-mail,” is a subset of spam that involves nearly identical messages sent to numerous recipients by e-mail.
A common synonym for spam is unsolicited bulk e-mail (UBE). Definitions of spam usually include the aspects that email is unsolicited and sent in bulk.
“UCE” refers specifically to “unsolicited commercial e-mail.”
By that definition, the message I received was unwelcome, but it wasn’t spam.
However, most marketers that subscribe to the tenets of Permission Marketing agree that if a message isn’t anticipated, personal and relevant, it’s spam.
The message was targeted, and for all the sender knew, it was relevant. But since it was sent to generic new business inquiries mailbox, it wasn’t anticipated or personalized.
So based on the tenets of Permission Marketing, it was spam.
Still, marketing is about interruption and getting someone’s attention. Most messages are unsolicited.
If we applied the same standard to advertising, how would it fare?
- It’s not anticipated (we’re seldom there for the ads)
- It’s not personalized
- It’s only relevant if the advertiser chose the media well
In the midst of our scorched earth email exchange, I said:
Spam is in the eye of the recipient, not the sender.
But if their message was simply unsolicited, did I overreact?
Why was my response so visceral?
And at what point should an unsolicited message be classified as spam?
I’d love to see some heated discussion this.
Comment below to weigh in.