Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
A local company recently asked me whether they should use bulk email to
(spam or UCE) promote their products and services.
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
Naturally I said "no way" -- but that wasn't the answer they wanted to hear.
I pointed out the risks and dangers associated with using spam -- at best
they'd be totally ignored, at worst they could damage the reputation of their
business, lose their ISP connection and waste a lot of time fending off
angry complaints and threats from the anti-spam brigade.
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Unfortunately, despite my best efforts to talk them out of it -- they decided that the
benefits might just be worth the risks.
Now, since there was no way I could stop this folly, I decided to see just
what would happen when they sent out several thousand unsolicited
emails to mainly .nz addresses.
The results of their spam-run were related to me with some glee by the company's
What does this tell us?
- 33% of the emails bounced
- 66% of the emails were read (a small embedded graphic "web-bug" was
used to monitor this).
- 3% visited the spammer's website
- 1.6% responded to the "unsubscribe" option
- 1% generated automated responses ("I'm on holiday" etc)
- 0.1% purchased a product or service
Well, most amazing to me was the fact that only one person actually kicked
up a fuss about receiving the spam. What makes this even more incredible is
that the targets for this spam-run were likely to be quite IT/Net aware
Based on these figures, can we assume therefore that the public has come
to accept spam as just another part of life on the Net?
I sure hope not.
There are probably several reasons that the company concerned got away
with this spam-run:
However, here I am with egg all over my face.
- The targeting was fairly good. The company had trawled the Web for
email addresses at companies which were a pretty good fit with the products
and services they were promoting. Unfortunately this was done quite some time
ago -- which probably explains the high number of bounces.
- The offer wasn't another "get rich quick" scam like those which fill our
mailboxes every day promising us immense wealth without effort. It was a
"newsletter" that offered some useful information along with the sales pitch.
- The email came from what is considered to be a bona-fide company which
was probably known to many of the recipients.
They spammed and the sky didn't fall.
For the investment of just a bit of time and daring they racked up several
hundred dollars worth of sales and expect that, with the new clients they
now have, this will represent several thousand dollars during the course
of the next 12 months.
Does this mean that I think spam is acceptable now?
This company was exceedingly lucky and perhaps the combination
of targeting, having a good product, and bundling useful information
meant that it didn't quite rate as spam in many people's minds -- but from
where I stand it was still: email, unsolicited, and commercial (ie: spam!)
Goodness knows I already receive far too many "newsletters" that spammers have
decided it would be in my interest to receive. If I want their stinking
"newsletter" then I'll subscribe -- otherwise, don't bother me with your
I really had to think hard about publishing these figures because the last
thing I want to do is have a bunch of morons thinking that, just because one
company got away with it, they can too.
The bad news is that, so long as people keep responding to spam by buying
a spammer's products and services, the spam will keep coming.
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