So I spoke a little about PR spam in my first official post below, and I hinted how much I agree with the concept of permission marketing.

The key things in permission marketing IMHO, are anticipation and relevance.

If I anticipate a message from a vendor, I will likely spend the time to read it. If it’s relevant, even better, the chances go up that I will read their next email.

So I get a message from Amazon.com a few months back, and was glad I did:

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I love Tom Waits, had no idea that there was a new book about him out, but since I have bought Tom Waits stuff from amazon.com before, I get a nice email message about it, and further I get to save 34%. Sweet!

On the other hand, only a few days later I get this email from Amazon. ca:

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Great! I love Harry Potter and as the email states, I have bought other HP books from them in the past, thus, I guess, they have my permission. One problem, I pre-ordered this book several months earlier, not one, not two, but three copies! Directly from Amazon. ca! So while I do appreciate the reminder, it’s completely irrelevant. No big deal though, honest mistake.

But then I get another email from amazon.ca today:

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Dear Amazon.ca Customer,
As someone who has shopped at Amazon.ca, you might like to know that you can find everything you need to get in a festive mood for holiday 2007 at Amazon.ca.

Trust me, I have never bought a FESTIVE CD, book, or video from Amazon.ca. But worst, they clearly know this.

First of all where’s the relevance?

Dear Amazon.ca customer. Right there and then I know this is SPAM! Where’s my name?

And because I am a customer, “I might like to know that I can find everything I need to get in the festive mood for 2007?”

Actually, I wouldn’t like to know. Further, I don’t need a book, CD, or video from Amazon.ca to get me in the festive mood!

No relevance in this email whatsoever for me personally.

Lesson for Marketers: If you use phrases like, ” you might like to know” or “we thought you may be interested”…it better precede with something relevant. i.e. since you bought Tom Waits Real Gone a few months back, you might like to know that there is a book about Tom available now. NOT, since you bought here before, we are going to continue to spam you hoping something is interesting so you will buy something else from us.

So I looked through my inbox finding all the Amazon.com messages. All relevant. They contact me to let me know what’s new IF I previously bought something from that author or artist. Every message in my email inbox from amazon.com is a relevant message based on a prior purchase. Up to this point, they have avoided the temptation to SPAM me eventhough they could with emails like, “If you like Tom Waits, you might like this!” Nope…didn’t do it. Bravo Amazon.com. Good on ya!

Amazon.ca? Checked my inbox, I have over 10 times the amount of email from them than I do from Amazon.com. And you know what? Not one relevant message based on a prior purchase. Oh wait, they did kindly recommend Harry Potter 7…too bad I pre-ordered it 3 times several months before from them. Since I bought 3 copies, I might like a 4th? The ironic thing is that I have only bought a few things via Amazon.com and since I am Canadian, the majority of my purchases have been through Amazon.ca and I buy a lot of books and CDs from them. Oh well, time to shop elsewhere.

Amazon.ca, you have some work to do and you don’t have to look very far to see where to start.

Seth shares his spam story today.

I hate to categorize every PR person into this group, but I just think there are so many out there who simply don’t get it.

Chris Anderson, author of the Long Tail, and a blogger who I greatly respect finally lost it and directed a rant at PR people who spam, spam, and spam some more. It’s got quite a bit of attention, and the response has been HUGE. Check out the comments at the bottom of the post with varying opinions.

Some people agree completely with Chris, others think that he went too far and need to get over himself.

Here’s my take:

  1. There are alot of uneducated and naive PR people out there. I feel bad for some people on Chris’ blacklist. Some people will put total trust in companies that sell email lists to people hoping to find a list of potential “leads”. They ASSUME that these companies have acquired these emails in a responsible fashion. Sure some probably have, but others surely don’t. Bigger lists sell. You can’t convince someone to buy your 10 person email list without proof that they are surefire leads. So therefore, size wins. These companies build the biggest lists they can as they will be viewed as attractive to prospective buyers. So what if I get 10 responses out of 1000, it was worth the $500 I spent on the list if these customers if 5 of my leads get converted.
  2. Of course the last sentence in the first point is where the real problem lies. Many marketers know that these lists were probably compiled in a dishonest way, but it doesn’t matter, because as I mentioned above, if we can get 5 sales out of it…

I understand how difficult it is for small start-up companies to resist the urge to go after these big and general lists. You need a sales boost to get your company started on the right foot. It’s a trap that many marketers fall into because it is easy to do. No work involved. Buy 500 email addresses and write one template email and ship it off. Easy days work.

I think Seth nails it here (as he generally does).

It’s hard to do, but start small. Try and build a great website, spend some money on google ads, and get a few leads. Spend all your time on converting those leads. Build relationships and in turn, create yourself a permission market. Completely WOWing 5 individuals will go a long way in giving your business a jump start. Sure it’s hard work…but it’s better work.

This message is not just for those people who buy those lists. It’s also for the PR people out there who surf the web looking for editors online and send them this template email you created. It’s the same problem. If I can send out 25 emails today, maybe I will hear from 2 editors tomorrow! and the vicious cycle continues. Templates can be read a mile away. I know you aren’t interested in ME. Make it personal and authentic. Lose the dry, corporate garbage voice, it won’t get you anywhere.

Chris really reveals the beauty (and the curse for some) of the blogosphere. Bad marketing practices get called out.