I receive inquiries about the appropriateness of e-mailing other onliners about commercial ventures, new businesses or “information I know they can use.” In particular Holiday specials or promotions that folks didn’t sign up to receive.
Whenever this question is asked it is because the person making the inquiry has an inkling that they shouldn’t but want to see if there is an excuse or a reason to override what they pretty much know is not a good idea. With than in mind, today I thought I would cover for you some of the questions I get asked most.
“Can I e-mail someone I don’t know about my business whose e-mail address was included with mine and a whole bunch of others in the To: field of a forwarded e-mail? I have some information about my company I know they can use.”
Just because you have a contact in common, does not tacitly give you approval to e-mail addresses they may have exposed to you. Because the original Sender who forwarded the e-mail didn’t use the BCc: field thereby displaying everyone’s e-mail address publicly to strangers, does not give you implied permission to e-mail those whose addresses you are now aware of. You don’t know them and they don’t know you.
No matter how important you think your information, product or services are, you do not e-mail others about that unless they specifically gave you their e-mail address and asked you to.
“Can I e-mail business associates I’ve known over the years about my business’ seasonal promotions?”
Not unless you’ve had discussions where they agreed to be kept updated because you have kept in touch with these contacts. Without any specific permission you would be taking a liberty with the e-mail addresses of those associates — and hope they appreciate you doing so. If you haven’t communicated with them in over a year — there is no relationship to update.
Did they give their e-mail address because they wanted to know about your promotions? If not, don’t spam them. Why not send an old-fashioned snail-mail letter on your nifty letterhead and include a business card with info on your promotion? Certain business practices will never go out of style and taking this approach will set your new business apart from the majority taking the easy route and e-mailing unasked for “FYI” e-mails.
“Can I e-mail addresses found publicly listed on business sites about your Holiday deals?”
If an e-mail address is listed on someone’s business Website that doesn’t mean they want to be sold to or hear from anyone who feels they have a service or product to offer. You are still spamming them — because they didn’t ask for your information. Instead, use their contact form to ask if they would be interested and to whom specifically you can direct more details to.
Do not include your whole sales pitch in the form. Short, sweet and ask if they are interested and would like to know more. I can tell you from experience this is an approach that will be appreciated and given more consideration than the copy-n-paste website form spammers. If you don’t hear back, you have your answer.
If they didn’t ask; don’t spam them!
The fact remains that unasked for e-mail is spam. Period. If an contact or associate did not directly offer their e-mail address to you to know about your commercial activities, you don’t e-mail them. It being the Holidays doesn’t change that. There are all kinds of nifty and creative marketing tactics one can use to get business exposure and to make announcements that lend to your credibility and garner attention.
If your authenticity and legitimacy are important to you, e-mailing those who didn’t specifically ask for your commercial pitch in the guise of a Holiday greeting, is most likely not a wise decision.