Bulk Email Has Penalties

An Article By Nicole Miller from Register Online!

Anyone who has, or is thinking about starting, an online business knows how tempting the marketing strategy of sending "bulk e-mail" can be. And why not? It's free, it's easy, and it's fast. However, it's cost in the long run can not even begin to compare.

Disguised as a "definitive target list," bulk e-mail is defined as "spam" by the people who matter the most - your potential customers, your Internet Presence Service reps, and your Virtual Host Service administrators if you have one. Originally, the term "spam" referred to repetitive postings about a particular subject broadcast to numerous and sometimes unrelated discussion groups. However today, the term "spam" has grown to mean, "Anything I don't want to read," and the steps taken against receiving spam can be dangerous to your business if you decide to use bulk e-mail as a promotional tool.

From your target market's (i.e. those who'll receive the contents of your bulk e-mail efforts) point of view, spam is not bulk mail. It is not mail offering something for sale. Nor is it a combination of these two. Instead, spam is ANY message sent to a person who ***did not ask*** to receive e-mail period. This can be a single piece of mail, or a group of messages offering the greatest product in the world at absolutely no cost. ISPs call this UCE (unsolicited commercial e-mail). You call it target marketing. But those who received it and did not ask for it, call it spam.

There's nothing wrong with spam really. It only causes problems when you send it and people get it. And if these folks take the notion to make a complaint (either to your ISP, virtual host service, or their own ISP) for sending them messages unsolicited, I can guarantee you WILL lose at least one of two very important accounts. Depending upon who receives the most complaints first, your ISP account can be suspended or terminated, in addition to your server host account. This means you will lose your connection to the internet, and your website will be down, along with any other internet configurations you have going, such as autoresponding messages for example.

So you may say, "Big deal, I'll just get another ISP and virtual host server!" OK, easy enough, but this moving around can unnecessarily cost you anywhere from $50/month to $50/day. Most importantly, your reputation will be damaged.

No one wants or can afford to be affiliated with what is labeled as a *spammer*. Let's say I join forces with you, and you decide to announce this merge via email. Let's also suppose your ISP and virtual host service has received a good 2-3 complaints about you sending unsolicited email in the past. After you send this announcement (which my friend is spam), you get a last complaint, your account and connection to the Internet is closed down, and I'm out of a partner and an explanation for an hour or two (assuming you'd be good enough to call me and explain what happened). Now I have to face the risk of being called a spammer and my ISP and/or virtual host service connection is threatened as well.

I've received bulk e-mail promotions promising to advertise my business under their name only so that they will be the ones to loose the connection and/or be fined instead of me. Tsk Tsk. I'm no fool. Any mention of my URL in these spams, a quick jump to an internet "who-is" function, and then Wham! - There's my name, phone number, ISP info, and virtual host service information ready - aimed - and fired complaints to.

As you can see, it's just not worth it. What was once a free medium for online promotion has turned into an ugly mess of "don't bother me" fines, suspensions, and Internet terminations. Your best bet is to not get involved, but instead promote with what is acceptable, such as banner exchanges, search engines, newsgroups ending with "announce" or "marketplace" (even here you must take the time to read the group's FAQ since some groups will accept posts only if they are "formatted" according to the group's preferences), paid classified ads, your own website, OFFline avenues (such as newspapers and magazines), and your signature file.

Yes, this may take "longer". But what would you rather do? Take the time to do it right, or, pay the fine to do it anyway you can?