Get permission first – Avoid the perils of SPAM

October 30, 2008

I attended a seminar recently where the person making the presentation held a draw to win free admission to an upcoming workshop she was hosting. She asked attendees at this seminar to put their business cards into a bowl at the front of the room for this purpose. She did this before her presentation. I put my card in the bowl. I didn’t win the free workshop and I was happy about that because I found the seminar to be of poor quality. Guess what happened next?

One day about a month later I received three faxed advertisements from this company for an upcoming conference. All three ads were identical. I was annoyed. I immediately looked at the ad to see how I could “unsubscribe” to this spam list. No method was listed. I went to the company’s website and used the contact email address to express my displeasure and unsubscribe. A week and a half later I got an email back stating that I would be taken off the list. We’ll see if the faxes stop. The irony is that this company offers communications skills training.

This scenario is the “old school” way of promoting goods and services. The approach doesn’t cut it anymore—if it ever did. The problem with this approach of communicating with potential customers is threefold:

  1. Dishonest approach – You’ve asked for someone’s contact information for one reason and used it for another. I gave this person my business card for a free draw not to be placed on an fax list with no identified way to unsubscribe. I now do not trust this company.
  2. Waste of time – Your communication is based on a “shot-gun” approach rather than targeted one. Instead of investing your communication time with the people you know want to receive your information, you’re hitting many who have no interest in your service.
  3. Risk of turning harmless ambivalence into bad word of mouth – This is somewhat related to my first point. When I left that seminar I wasn’t impressed with the facilitator or her business but I forgot about it. After receiving the spam faxes, I’m annoyed and am more prone to spread the word that this company lacks integrity and offers a poor service.

Seth Godin is cited as the originator of the concept of permission marketing. In short, don’t try to force a relationship with your audience. As with inter-personal relations, permission and trust is earned and required to move things forward. If you haven’t been invited to do so, don’t send me three faxes in the same day about a service I potentially have no interest in.

Did you enjoy this post? Why not subscribe to receive future posts right to your email address? (This is an example of pemission marketing, by the way).


2 Responses to “Get permission first – Avoid the perils of SPAM”

  1. messagecom Says:

    Thanks for your story Leandra. I think it actually tops mine. That you had a face-to-face conversation with this person, agreed to follow up and then just got a newsletter is beyond comprehension.

  2. leandra Says:

    I recently had a lovely conversation with someone about their non-profit. We traded business cards and verbally planned to meet for lunch down the road to discuss some design options. I sent a brief follow-up email and the only response I received was the next copy of the organization’s enewsletter.

    My opinion on this networking gaffe would have been different if they bothered to ask my permission first. Thankfully, I was able to unsubscribe, but now I have that small irritation factor associated with this company.

    I have also had to unsubscribe from various “business card in the bowl” events. I can’t imagine getting unsolicited faxes though, how frustrating!

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