I received an "interesting" e-mail the other day. It was an unsolicited offer, but it clearly wasn't spam. How do I know? Because it said right in the e-mail that it wasn't spam. I mean, how much more proof do you need?
Here's the e-mail I received. (Forgive me if it sounds condescending to write [sic] where he has spelling and punctuation errors, but I just want you to know that I did not introduce those errors.)
My name is [name withheld to protect the clueless] and I own and manage an article marketing, writing, and submission service. We've been offering the service for awhile [sic] now but just recently went live with a new website.
We haven't had much progress getting our site out there to the masses, so we're taking a more direct approach by emailing websites to get there feedback personally.
After advertising our services for a couple of months now, we are taking a different approach and looking to connect with website owners on a more personal level, which is why I've decided to email you.
Incase [sic] you don't already know, article marketing is great for building backlinks, increasing your rank in the search engines and increasing your traffic.
At this point in our business progression, we're looking for our services to prove themselves worthy. We need to know if website owners really need what we have to offer.. [sic] The best way I know how to find this out is to email website owners directly.
Do you currently write and submit articles to promote your website? If so, are you satisfied with your results?
In order to gain some consumer confidence, we're running a limited promotion to the first 100 websites for a limited time. For the promotion, we're offering our services for 25% off.
I don't want you to feel that you've received this message with the intentions of me spamming you, so I will hold out on giving you my website unless you let me know if you're interested in our offer.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this email and I hope to hear from you soon.
Now, you might have just deleted this kind of transparent e-mail with nary a thought. But, perhaps in a moment of weakness, I did something that you should probably never do--I responded to the spammer, thus confirming my e-mail address for his list.
I thought that perhaps this was a legitimate, albeit misguided, effort at Internet marketing, so I decided to try to educate my new best friend:
Hi [name withheld],
This feels like a spammy technique to me regardless of you efforts to go against the grain of normal spam. The e-mail was unsolicited and the letter to me was totally impersonal. If you knew anything about me at all, you'd know that I am a big advocate of article marketing and just about any way to use content to attract attention to your Web site.
If you're truly interested in feedback, you just got some. I am hoping that you are inadvertently spamming because you don't know what else to do. It's not a good sign when someone selling marketing resorts to using this kind of technique--it speaks volumes about the lack of success at what you are selling, I think.
Let me know if I can help you.
You'll undoubtedly be stunned to hear that I received no response to this e-mail. His lack of response just makes me more cynical about what he is doing. I now think that he didn't provide the name of his company so that he could not be prosecuted under anti-spam laws. I still decided to withhold his name in this post, because perhaps he really is clueless, but my money is that this is just a ploy from a veteran spammer.
I keep hoping that people will start to understand that their efforts are better spent on engaging with people by offering real help for problems rather than spamming the world with "Act now and get one free" offers. If you think that having a soft touch inoculates you from being accused of spam, it doesn't.
I am hopeful that none of you think this is the right way to promote your business. No matter how nicely you do it, spam is unethical and in most countries, illegal. Don't waste your time with such techniques when you could be doing real marketing.