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CONTACT email — abuse it, you lose it. Why don’t I just change my Contact address if it is being clobbered with UCE? …because it is MY CONTACT address, not some revenue-generator for SPAMmers or the irresponsible list Administrators who see it as a cash cow to be sold, rented, or misused for their own financial gain. If I change it, how long will it be until the new one also gets clobbered with “Solo Ads”? Why do some of them tell you it could take up to a week for the “Solo Ads” to stop coming after you change your address? Because they have sold it or added it to a list of Contact email addresses being used by blasters, and it will take a week to get all the junk mail through the system before changes to the lists can be processed.

I established a dedicated CONTACT address to maintain CONTACT with those who have a business need to contact me. A large number of LEGITIMATE business partners contact me through that address, and NONE of them SPAM it with hundreds of “Solo Ads”. I have spent a lot of time and money developing that email address. It is valuable to me. For thousands of people with whom I do business, it is my established “address”. Next, they will tell me I need to move from my home if I am getting too much junk mail through the Post Office.

Some say, if we don’t like it, we can unsubscribe. Why should those of us with principle be forced to abandon one of the most efficient promotional and advertising media available to us just so unethical and irresponsible list administrators can continue to misuse the contact addresses of those who stay?

This problem is not unique to my contact address, it affects all of the individuals. This is not a personal vendetta, it is not a crusade against advertisers, it is an observation of a systemic problem that could very well destroy Safelists altogether. The correct response to this problem is “No, YOU change your unethical practice of abusing email addresses given to you for the purpose of maintaining CONTACT with individuals”.

Here is an excellent article written by Ryan Allis, the CEO of Broadwick Corp., providers of the leading permission-based email marketing software “IntelliContact Pro”… Why Email Marketing Matters. The following quote immediately caught my attention: “The first and most important rule is to only send relevant content to persons who have requested it.” (emphasis mine)…if it LOOKS like a duck, QUACKS like a duck,….

No matter how it is gilded, the increasing trend of blasting UCE to an individual’s CONTACT email addresses is a thinly veiled attempt by those List Administrators who are intellectually prostituting themselves as surrogates for SPAMMers to circumvent anti-SPAM laws using a technicality. It is an abuse of the trust placed in them by individuals…and it is counterproductive to their business interests. The disclaimers in the “Solo Ads” are getting to be almost as long and detailed as the ads themselves…ALL CAPS, confrontational, “in your face“, and emphasizing that if we don’t like it, we can unsubscribe. Are they trying to convince me or themselves that they aren’t just SPAM? That really puts the reader in a great mood to read the ad, doesn’t it?

Reading some of the noble yet quite hypocritical disclaimers about SPAM on many of the sites providing the Ad Blasting to “Contact” email addresses reminds me of a sign I once saw. It read, “The louder he bragged of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

Solo Ads to Private Contact Addresses — Reality

The subject presents a real dilemma for safelist owners and Admins. It all comes down to priorities, respect, and doing what is ethical — and what makes good business sense. The current practice of blasting “Solo Ads” to Contact email addresses demonstrates utter CONTEMPT for the individuals and their privacy. And how much “respect” does it show for individuals to refer to them as “Fresh, Very Clean, Filtered HOT Leads”? Those are terms one might expect to hear at a food court or from a street vendor, not references to valued potential customers. Such conduct is what one might expect from small-time operators with neither ethics nor imagination and very little marketing acumen taking advantage of loopholes, not savvy business people employing sound marketing practices.

Can you imagine the outcry if your phone company, the gas company, the electric utility, your doctor, everyone who has your private contact information called you or sent you junk mail all day long trying to sell ads for third parties or trying to get you to buy something else from them besides what you contracted to buy from them originally? How does receiving “Solo Ad blasts” from List Admins differ from suddenly receiving a barrage of junk mail and brochures from drug companies and offers for medical insurance originating from your doctor’s business mailer? Having special access does not automatically grant a license to abuse the privilege, and smart marketers understand that principle and use the privilege wisely. Regardless of disclaimers or concessions that had to be accepted by individuals in order to be allowed to join a safelist, the practice of Admins blasting Solo ads to contact addresses is irresponsible and very counterproductive…and I’ll explain why.

Contact ads to Free members at a reasonable frequency may be a fair exchange for letting them use the system at no cost, but abusing the privilege can still be counterproductive. At least put something of value in them, not just the same ad they get in their List account degraded by half a page of condescending “disclaimers”. Free members are also trying to make money and may be in desperate straits with little or no income, few skills, and little education to find jobs in the conventional market. They probably don’t have much to invest…that’s probably why they are at the Free level. They may have to access the Internet and their email using a dialup connection and a modem, so how long do you think it takes them to download hundreds of “Solo Ads” they don’t want to see before they can get to their important email or visit a website they want to access? They probably don’t have big, expensive computers with lots of storage space for junk mail, and they may be operating on a shoestring, so piling on more junk mail with the expectation that they will like it and read it and buy whatever is being blasted to them is questionable at best and poor marketing without a doubt. If anything, they need a break more than paid members do, and they may even need mentoring, not abusive ad blasts to wade through.

Generating good will with them could pay big dividends in loyalty and trust when Admins do send them an offer that the Admin endorses. Admins have a ready-made personal contact list, which is worth a lot of money. They are building an ever-growing enemies list — for themselves AND the person whose ad they are blasting — if they keep abusing it. individuals may be willing to invest the few dollars they have if they trust the Admin who vouches that the offer is a sound investment with high probability of earning revenue, not just another gamble based on hype and smoke and mirrors that the Admin is offering only because someone paid to send it. What credibility does a third party have with individuals? How much credibility does the Admin lose if this is just another worthless scheme but the Admin sent it to them in a full page “Solo Ad” anyway?…full of “disclaimers”.

The number of dollars an Admin might make selling Solo ads that are summarily deleted by frustrated and angry individuals pales in comparison to the multitude of signups and sales s/he could generate by treating individuals with respect and earning their trust and confidence. When they do have an important message to send to the individuals, it may not be seen or it may get summarily deleted along with the rest of the Junk mail out of habit. Which would you consider favorably, the same hyped-up third party ad blasted to you 100 times in your Contact address or ONE well-written offer from your list Admin who is offering a proposal in which s/he is also investing time and money? With some “incentives” in it such as extra credits, interesting contests with prizes, or just plain old good business tips, readers would look forward to receiving it.

Sending any information to a Contact address carries with it a degree of authority and credibility for the Admin. If the Admin has been careful never to mislead individuals or try to coerce them into some fly-by-night unproven scheme offered by a third party no one knows anything about, both good will and trust keep growing. Having created an atmosphere of trust and respect, when the Admin sends individuals an offer, s/he can be assured that they will look at it seriously. If the Admin says “this is a proven opportunity, I thoroughly checked it out, I am making money with it, and I will help you make money”, most individuals will be more willing to take a chance as opposed to the third party ad where the Admin puts a disclaimer saying “Admin neither endorses nor verifies the claims made in this third party advertisement”…(read, “I have no respect for you or the sanctity of your private Contact address; I just use it as a second List address to try to make more money off of you by selling as many “Solo Ads” as I can, and you HAVE to let me do it because you agreed to accept them when you signed up”).

Admin is not responsible for the contents of this ad. It is being sent as a service to the purchaser of this solo ad [and as a DISservice to the individual who is legally being extorted to receive it].”…actually Admin is responsible. Admin sent it. If it contained a death threat or other prohibited content, Admin would be in big trouble because it came from Admin’s mailer.

Why the use of anti-SPAM “masking” in the disclaimer? Guilt, knowing that these messages are simply SPAM but they must be accepted by the recipient in order to be a member of the Safelist?…or something left over from the original SPAMmer’s template? No need to “mask” legitimate messages sent to an email address to which the originator is authorized to send email, right? Are you beginning to understand the ramifications?

I hope I have effectively outlined the pros and cons of sending “Solo ads” to an individual’s Contact addresses…and the fallacy of the current practice of indiscriminately blasting them to individuals as though the Contact address is a second List address. Contact with individuals is a business necessity and a valuable commodity. Abuse it, you lose it. Blasting “Solo Ads” to Contact addresses could kill safelists altogether, and then everyone loses.

Bruce Obermeyer
TR Associates

The author holds an undergraduate degree in physics, a Masters in Business Administration, an Airline Transport Pilot License, and has worked in the field of aerospace safety for nearly forty years. He operates an online business focusing on marketing and promotion, revenue generating businesses, retail sales, consulting, and training.


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