Last night I was out at a professional association's meeting, and afterwards a few of us decided to go somewhere to socialize. One of the people had just started her own business a year ago (let's call her Sheila), and in the midst of conversation she mentioned that she takes every business card that she gets and puts it on her mailing list. She sends a weekly email (with no opt-out option) to her list. I said "do you ask these people if they want on the list?" Sheila replied "no, but they can send me an email asking me to take them off if they want to".
Does anyone else see what's wrong with this? The basic definition of what Spam is is any kind of unwanted online communication. Usually it refers to large companies sending out massive quantities of unwanted email to bring down servers and cause mass havoc. But it also pertains to being put on a mailing list without your knowledge or consent. A professional courtesy can be shown by simply asking someone right at the get go "I send out a daily/weekly/xxx newsletter/email on _______. Would you like to be put on my mailing list?"
"What's the big deal?" you may ask. "Can't you just delete the email, or email the person to remove yourself?". I'm glad you asked. Why, yes I can do both of those things. It doesn't take that long. For this one email. If this is the only email I ever have to do it with. But of course, it's not.
For busy business people who are out there meeting people and exchanging business cards on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis, the amount of mailing lists people are put on is huge. Add to this the mailing lists people get put on from the large number of websites they visit weekly. Removing yourself from all of these unwanted mailings lists is now time consuming.
As a business person whose job it is to help people reduce wasted time, I was shocked to hear a new business owner like Sheila be so blase' about creating a huge time waster for people. In addition, it's not a good business model.
A business man I knew said he put every person he ever meets on his email lists because it sounds good to say he has a lot of people on it. When I asked him how many people unsubscribe because they never asked to be on the list he replied “Most of them. And they’re not happy with me either, but at least I got them for one email.”
I would be one of those annoyed people. I spent 20 minutes last week unsubscribing from unwanted email lists. It's a huge waste of my time, and it makes me wonder about the integrity of the person who put me on their list. Sheila wasn't too worried about that and said if the person gets mad about being put on the list, then she wouldn't want that person as a client anyways. ?!?!?? Because she's talking about me, and let me tell you, if I am your client and like your services, I will be professing them to the world. So to continue ignoring professional courtesy is a great opportunity to say goodbye to potential clients.
To recap, if you put people on mailing lists without their consent or knowledge (Spam), you:
- create a time waster for those people who don't want on this list
- annoy those same people, the people you were trying to connect with in the first place
- say goodbye to potential clients (and all they people that THEY know)
OR, when you meet them and take their business card (or in a followup email to them) you could ask them nicely if they want to go on your list.
The great thing about owning your own business is you get choose how you want to run it. I know which model I'm going for.