First, let’s note the official definition of spam:
Simple Definition of spam
: e-mail that is not wanted : e-mail that is sent to large numbers of people and that consists mostly of advertising
Full Definition of spam
: unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses
Okay, now that we have that out there, the point of contention is “large number of people/addresses”. If we don’t send to large numbers at once and just e-mail folks one by one, then that is okay and not spam? Not so fast…
I have received e-mails informing me that sending advertising to one person at a time, even though they didn’t request or ask for the info, is okay. One in particular scolded me demanding that I change my site to make clear that e-mailing one person directly (someone who didn’t ask for their commercial pitch) was not spam. (I guess it is convenient to ignore the “unsolicited” and “not wanted” part of the definition.)
So, when is spam not spam?
When the email is completely tailored to the individual it is being sent to. It is not a template, it is not a copy-n-paste into a website form, hit send and be done.
For example, I receive these type of e-mails all the time on my business consulting website addressed to Dear Sir. I’m not a Sir, minimal effort would determine that — like the fact my name is on the top/left of every page or by just clicking on the My Story link.
Not making the effort to find out I’m not a Sir or even notice my name on every page and you just spammed me. You sent me something I didn’t ask for and didn’t even take the time to know who you are addressing — SPAM!
Another example. I get e-mail inquiries from SEO companies who want to get their client’s guest posts on this site. That’s what they are paid to do — a commercial motive. Many times their post topics are not even related to Business Email Etiquette. Maybe they get paid by number of sites contacted, not the actual results of getting posts accepted?
Why would I take seriously a copy-n-pasted inquiry that is addressed to the “Business Email Team” (again it’s just me — easy to find that out) asking about how they can get one of their clients off-topic articles on my site?
Hmmmm… Did they click the Guest Post Inquiry link at the top of every page on this site? Everything’s there. Nope. They clearly didn’t read the very contact page they used to send their “inquiry” that has a link to that page too! Instead, full steam ahead to the contact form fields to get what they wanted in front of me regardless of the info being there and a form being one click away. Didn’t take the time to read my site and find the info you seek? SPAM!
Yes, I guess you can send unasked for commercially driven e-mails to individuals without their permission first. Times do change; technology evolves.
However, from a professional business perspective you had better darned well do your homework, know who you are contacting and tailor your message specifically, directly and in great detail to those you intend on sending your pitch to. By not doing so you are no different than the mass e-mail spammers. DELETE!
Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.
― Dalai Lama XIV