Never annoy anyone with any kind of e-mail
RULE OF THUMB NO. 3
Only use e-mail autoresponders in the most control of situations and use them with great care
With respect to the gray areas, it helps to remember that you will never get in trouble if no one ever accuses you of spamming. If you never annoy anyone, no one should ever be motivated to report you. If you treat others as you would have them treat you, you are not likely to annoy them. Because some people have thin skin, however, and will be annoyed where you would not be, using the Golden Rule is by no means foolproof. It helps to think in terms of what annoys the average person, but to be safe, you need to think in terms of what annoys the overly sensitive person as well.
It’s a mystery to me why, but many aggressive marketers approach Internet marketing as a kind of war game. They want to kill your e-mail or your ad and strike you repeatedly with theirs. I don’t know about you, but it sure as heck doesn’t put me in the mood to join something or buy something when I have been defeated in an Internet war game of ads. E-mail autoresponders are the weapon of choice in these war games. For example, I place an ad on Yahoo! Classifieds. I receive an e-mail that says, “Responding to your ad.” The content of the e-mail clearly reveals that the sender knows nothing of my ad and could care less. He only wants to put his ad in my face, using some ridiculous pretext that his reading of my ad (which he didn’t do) demonstrates to him that I am a good candidate for his opportunity. Then, were I naive enough to respond to his e-mail and point out that I am not interested in his opportunity, I would immediately receive an autoresponse message with even more information about his opportunity. Also, in the process of responding, I would have gotten myself added to his e-mail list so that I would receive more info every week about this opportunity in which I have no interest. No matter how hard I search, I can find no way to actually opt-out from his list. Am I going to report him for spamming? You bet your bippy I am!
Another example of the war game is people who join the opt-in lists and then hook up an autoresponder to the account with which they joined the list. Even though every single one of these lists prohibits using autoresponders, they are quite commonly used anyway. When you send out e-mail to the list, you immediately get back autoresponses from hundreds of the members of the list. They will never read the list nor your e-mail, but they will stack the list with their ads and then, on top of that, will autorespond to yours sent from the list.
Such tactics are absurd, ridiculous, ineffective, annoying, and unlawful. People get away with them only because they are technically savvy enough to hide their identities and make it so time consuming to track them down that most victims will not take the time to do it. But these are the extreme examples. Let’s look at some of the more subtle issues.
If you take care to always make sure that your e-mail is pleasant, you will not only be less likely to be accused of spamming, but you will more effectively develop relationships—which is the key to any successful marketing. You should take pains to be polite and sincere in all your e-mail correspondence. While you have to protect yourself from the war game spammers, you need to provide some way for people who read your e-mail to directly respond to you—where you will actually read their response. Only use e-mail autoresponders in the most controlled of situations and use them with great care. In fact, there are really only two situations I know of where an autoresponder is appropriate. One is where someone fills out a form on your Web page and you need to confirm that the e-mail address they supplied is a valid e-mail address. The other is when you host FFA pages. Autoresponders should rarely, if ever, be triggered by an incoming e-mail in my opinion. The only exception would be form submissions. While automation is a goal for some tasks and is being made more and more possible by the Internet, communication should be personal, not automated.
Take pains never to annoy people with your Internet marketing, whether through automation, insincerity, rudeness, or as we discuss below, misleading tactics