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Why Not Spam?

Q: What's the difference between spam and scam?

A: One letter.

Below I describe the reasons why your business should not send unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE). UCE is e-mail sent to a person who did not give you permission to send them any advertisements. If the e-mail address came from a purchased or shared list, UCE is also that which is sent to a person who did not give permission for such sharing.


Sending unsolicited advertisements places you at the same level as the scam artists, pornographers, and get-rich-quick schemes. This is how the recipient will view your business. Chances are you will turn off more potential customers than you will gain. You aren't respecting the customer, why should they respect you? The chances are high that your advertisement will never get seen, just deleted. Your business will get a reputation as cheap, sleazy, and unreliable. Your sagging reputation will eventually cost deals and customers.


Many recipients will trace the message back to your ISP and report it as spam. Most ISP's have a "no spam" policy, and won't hesitate to terminate your account. You will lose your e-mail account and your web page service, and will have to make a deal with your existing ISP or a new one. Can you stand to lose a few days of business? Can you afford to spend time dealing with ISPs?

The hardcore anti-spammers will always track the messages, especially if you attempt to hide the source. Ultimately, if the message can get to the customer's system, the customer can track it back to the business. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of know-how to do this. So, how many people did you send the advertisement to? Chances are, some of them have this know-how. Many spammer products advertise that they can't be tracked, but that goal is technically impossible.


E-mail is cheap. You can send a million advertisements in an hour, and pay very little. The cost of the transmission is supported by all of the receiving ISP's, who pass it on to the users. This is not right, and many recipients will take offense. Do you really want to offend potential customers?

Anyway, the money you save sending e-mail ads will be used up elsewhere. You will need to switch ISP's often, or pay extra for a spammer-tolerant one. Chances are that your web site and e-mail addresses will be down often, and customers or business associates will not be able to contact you. The overhead involved will eat into time and salaries.

Do's and Don'ts

In long run, you get what you pay for.

  • Always use an opt-in list, one where permission was expressly granted by the customers to receive ads.
  • Never harvest e-mail addresses from the web, newsgroups, or other public sources.
  • Don't buy into those CD offers with a million e-mail addresses. Chances are they are filled with dud and non-permission addresses.
  • If you purchase a list, make sure it is from a reputable source, who uses positive opt-in practices.
  • When you receive spam complaints, and you will, treat them seriously and investigate what triggered the complaints.
  • Pay for your ads, and don't try to take the cheap-and-easy route.
  • Never attempt to hide your e-mail server or web server. That practice will raise some red flags.
  • Always mention how the recipient got on your mailing list, and offer an easy way off the list.

Dirty Lists

Data gets corrupted, either through hardware failure or user error. It just happens, and it happens to e-mail lists as well. A list becomes dirty when unpermitted e-mail addresses are added to a strictly opt-in list. This most often occurs through improper business practices or faulty list management.

When you are sharing a list with many other corporations, chances are that one is going to mess up. Once dirty, it is almost impossible to clean a list, and the spam reports will start coming in. If you maintain an opt-in list, guard it with your life, because your business needs to maintain a squeaky clean reputation when it comes to e-mail advertising.

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