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1/14/2014
09:06 AM
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My Dearest Spammer

A love letter to the tech marketers who buy my contact information.

Stop using my first name in your marketing emails. It isn't cute or clever. And it's certainly not going to increase your response rates. There will never come a day when I think, "Geez, how's my old friend Noreply doing?"

Forget for a moment that it's unimaginative and desperate, especially if you have a legitimate product or service. When you pay some bottom-feeding company like DiscoverOrg for my work email address or phone number (necessarily without my consent!), your marketing smells of V1agra.

Even if your tone is professional -- even if you use your real name -- and even if you somehow sound authentic, you don't deserve a meeting or even a response. It's like a mugger returning your empty wallet with a crayon-written note: "Check this box if you want to be my BFF." I don't. You're a spammer. You deserve a framed picture on some wall of shame. The problem is that we don't have said wall. Spamhaus has its 10 Worst Spammers list, but they're all predatory asses selling placebos to your grandmother in Kansas. And it should irk us all that most of the faces on the Spamhaus list have smug smiles. The lesson there is that you can't shame someone who is proud of his "ingenuity."

But a market-based solution would work for enterprise spammers because most are legitimate businesses. They just saaaahuck at marketing. They don't create useful, consumable, edutaining content. If they blog, it's completely self-serving. And their definition of a white paper is a way to play buzzword bingo without stock images of women in business suits (the lowest possible bar for demonstrating diversity).

[Want more advice from Mr. Meshing? Read Career Advice From The Future.]

Look, no one likes spam. So writing an anti-spam column is like finally coming out against racism. The problem is that our cultural understanding of spam lets craptastic sales organizations rationalize their "marketing" (in giant air quotes) as legit simply because there's a real company behind it.

I get hundreds of these emails and calls a week. From people at real companies, mind you. And trust me when I tell you that I'm not alone in thinking that this approach cripples their credibility and increasingly delegitimizes their business.

What follows is a proposal for how to end this behavior (with or without the cooperation of the offending parties).

First, a threat posing as a weekend dev project
All right, team, for this exercise we're going to need a website. But what to name it? Let's be generous and say that only one out of every four marketers sucks all the marrow out of our lives. Not marketer A, B, or C but that lazy fourth one, leaving us a high-concept domain name: MarketerD.com. Someone trademark it. Quickly.

Now imagine a world where every time someone receives an unsolicited email at work, they forward it to TeachableMoment@marketerd.com. Heck, most people are even sophisticated enough to create Outlook auto-forwarding rules that zero in on words such as unsubscribe, big data, cloud, and hello. (Seriously, who in 2014 starts emails with "Hello"? It's creepy.)

The owner of the marketerd.com domain would just need to parse out the original sender/text of all inbound emails, making sure to strip out their original recipient (i.e., the victim). Then the system could extract, store, and score the spammer's email address and domain. After that, it's relatively simple to publish a wall of shame à la Spamhaus. For extra credit, the site could offer a simple service that lets Ops folks access a blacklist.

The site could even have two ironic cherries on top. First, a monetization strategy that lets offenders reduce their scores for a fee. Rich! Second, it could offer a weekly automated email to all offending violators that shares everyone's marketerd rankings. Just make sure there's a clearly visible unsubscribe link at the bottom of that email, the marketing world's legally sanctioned equivalent of saying the Rosary twice.

Note: If anyone spends a weekend building this site, I'll do more than just transfer the much-sought-after marketerd.com domain to them. Lunch, baaaby! Plus, a promise that after your death, I personally will fill out all the forms needed to grant you sainthood.

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anon5986881945
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anon5986881945,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 12:48:39 PM
Re: Some people fear clowns
...wow
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/15/2014 | 9:21:48 PM
Re: Some people fear clowns
The unsubscribe links that bother me are the ones that say it could take several weeks to remove you from the list. When do you actually know whether or not it has worked and whether or not it's time to unsubscribe again? I don't trust them.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/15/2014 | 11:58:56 AM
Re: Possible Solution
I like it, especially if a portion of that money comes to me in the form of a rebate.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 10:09:45 AM
Re: Hello Whoopty
Thanks. It's one I debated bringing over to my profeessional career once I started working, but in the end decided to hell with it and it's pretty much interchangeable for my real name at this point :).
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 12:32:16 AM
Possible Solution
What if we could subscribe to an email provider that charges any sender, say, 1/10 of a penny to send a message to us? That shouldn't cost most individuals even 5 cent a day, and, it would make large-scale spamming prohibitively expensive.
Coverlet
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Coverlet,
User Rank: Strategist
1/14/2014 | 11:51:19 PM
Some people fear clowns
I fear unsubscribe links.  

I'm sure most of them work but I tend to wear that special kind of aluminum foil hat that says 'clicking on that link will verify to these nutjobs that I'm here.'   I'm unintentionally proving what psychology has been saying for a century: nutjobs create nutjobs.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/14/2014 | 8:25:01 PM
Re: Hello Whoopty
In addition to "Hello" I tend to get "Greetings" and "Dear Madam" as well.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
1/14/2014 | 3:48:52 PM
Hello
Oh geez, I actually start quite a few emails with "Hello."

Can we get some kind of award or something for the author? His stuff is almost always 10/10.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/14/2014 | 11:55:32 AM
No shortcuts
What this all comes down to is that there's no substitute for good content. But making good content is hard -- probably well nigh impossible in a culture that thinks sending spam beginning with "hello" is a good idea.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/14/2014 | 11:51:08 AM
Re: Hello Whoopty
Kudos. Aliases do not get much better than "Whoopty."
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