In a recent article on email communication, we talked about email etiquette and how to avoid annoying recipients of your emails. The last point was not to send unsolicited email. But when is email ‘unsolicited’ and when is it actually OK to send unsolicited email?
There are some gray areas, but here is one hard and fast rule: NEVER send a bulk email to a ‘hot list’ of 10,000 email addresses you bought from someone. It is never OK to send your ad via email to total strangers. It’s bad form, and I can’t believe it works. Frankly, if someone sent me a spam email offering to sell dollar bills for 50 cents, I wouldn’t take them up on it.
It is generally OK to send email to people you know and who know you. If necessary, remind them how you know each other. (Hi! We met at the ABC conference last week . . .)
When sending to someone you don’t know, personalize your message and let them know why you chose to contact them. For example, I get lots of questions from people who found my website and want more information. Or people who want to discuss doing a joint venture or other business.
It is OK to send email to people who have asked to receive it. This is called ‘permission marketing’. Let’s say you’re a travel agent who offers to send bulletins to preferred customers when you have a great price on air fares. When I give you my email address and ask you to send the bulletins, I’ve given you permission to email me. Don’t abuse it by sending messages several times a day (unless that’s what you told me to expect) or by sending a lot of unrelated messages. And never share your mailing list with someone else. That violates the privacy of your list members and violates their trust as well.
I sometimes send press releases to media contacts via their published email addresses for press release submission. Each email is individually addressed (although I use an automated process to do so) and it is something I believe they will find of interest. I only send to appropriate media, and I don’t bombard them with press releases day after day. And, if anyone asks not to receive future releases, they are immediately removed from my data base. Each of these elements helps to keep me from being perceived as a spammer or just an old-fashioned pest.
In summary, don’t send bulk email to people you don’t know who haven’t asked to receive it. When people have given you permission to email them, don’t abuse it.
And always be polite and considerate of your recipients. After all, many of them get dozens or hundreds of emails every day. Using a subject heading which accurately describes your message helps them sort their messages easily.
Email is an important marketing tool–use it wisely and well!