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Parasites hurt email marketing

As a small business owner I am a ripe target for many companies. They buy my address from some lead generation firm, or they scrape it off LinkedIn, and they send me a message that pretends to be personalized but isn’t really.

“I looked at your website… we have a list of email addresses to sell you.”

“We offer cold calling services… can I set up a call with you?”

“I have scheduled a meeting tomorrow so I can tell you about our product that will solve all your technical issues and is also a floor wax.”

None of these emails are anything more than spam. They’re fake personalized. There’s no permission. On a good day they’ll have an opt out link. On a normal day they might include an actual name.

These are messages coming to an email address I’ve spent years trying to protect from getting onto mailing lists. I don’t do fishbowls, I’m careful about who I give my card to, I never use it to sign up for anything. And, still, that has all been for naught.

I don’t really blame the senders, I mean I do, they’re the ones that bought my address and then invested in business automation software that sends me regular emails trying to get me to give them a phone number. Or a contact for “the right person at your business to talk to about this great offer that will change your business.”

The real blame lies with the people who pretend that B2B spam is somehow not spam. Who have pivoted their businesses from selling consumer lists to business lists because permission doesn’t matter when it comes to businesses. The real blame lies with companies who sell “marketing automation software” that plugs into their Google Apps account and hijacks their reputation to get to the inbox. The real blame lies with list cleansing companies who sell list buyers a cleansing service that only hides the evidence of spamming.

There are so many parasites in the email space. They take time, energy and resources from large and small businesses, offering them services that seem good, but really are worthless.

The biologically interesting thing about parasites, though, is that they do better if they don’t overwhelm the host system. They have to stay small. They have to stay hidden. They have to not cause too much harm, otherwise the host system will fight back.

Email fights back too. Parasites will find it harder and harder to get mail delivered in any volume as the host system adapts to them. Already if I look in my junk folder, my filters are correctly flagging these messages as spam. And my filters see a very small portion of mail. Filtering companies and the business email hosting systems have a much broader view and much better defenses.

These emails annoy me, but I know that they are a short term problem.  As more and more businesses move to hosted services, like Google Apps and Office365 the permission rules are going to apply to business addresses as well as consumer addresses. The parasites selling products and services to small business owners can’t overwhelm email. The defenses will step in first.

 

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