Starting Work Smarter Tuesdays: Damn Spam

Let’s talk spam.

Spam in general is an icky thing. I hate receiving it, and I certainly wouldn’t want to send it. So when building your “list” as a business owner and sending out newsletters or other marketing materials via email, it’s important to define the line between sending wanted communications to your list and sending them spam. It`s also important to protect your reputation, and not appear spammy or cheesy.

NB: (If you are a small business owner and don’t yet have a list, make this a priority in 2013. Marketing safely through your email is a great way to stay on top of your clients and prospects minds. Contact me if you get stuck).

CAN SPAM has quite a few things you can and cannot do. If you are doing any sort of email marketing at all, please familiarize yourself with the act. The best and most guaranteed way to be squeaky clean with this is having an “opt in” box on your website. Here, people fill out their own information with permission that you send them email communications.”Double opt-in” is even better, as the opt in has to be approved through email by the potential receiver.

But what if your website isn’t the place you connect with most of your contacts? How can you “opt-in” someone who you meet in person?

Can I add people I meet in person to my email list?


Many of my contacts I meet through networking events, clubs and shows as opposed to online channels. Should they be added to your communications list though? My answer to that is maybe.

Although in theory adding everyone we meet to our list sounds like a good idea, just because we have a friendly conversation with someone and they appear to be interested in our business or what we do, doesn’t mean they want to hear from us on a mass level. Sending a personal follow up email is 100% the best way to make a connection after the fact, and you should never forget to do this. (And do it in a timely manner).

On the flip side, once a small relationship has been established, there may be some things you are sending on a mass level that might be of benefit to this contact, and you don’t want to exclude them. Keeping at the top of mind to your contacts, offering them value content, and reminding them you are accessible is a great way to develop a positive reputation, get a referral or even a new client.

The big thing you have to worry about is this contact flagging it as spam and perceiving you as that “icky” spammy person, in which case your positive attempts to keep in touch will backfire. Having someone perceive your email as spam (whether you think it is or not) is something you want to avoid at all costs. Depending on which email marketing program you use, how big your list is, and how many “spam” flags you get, this could also compromise your account.

Some people are also trigger happy with their SPAM button. They don’t know what actually happens when the SPAM key is hit other than that email moves and goes away. They don`t mean to be nasty, they just don`t understand how it all works.

Here is a really simple quick definition of spam, (there are many other rules, so please familiarize yourself with them):

  • Is it bulk (meaning your sending the same email to more than 1 person)?
  • Have they given permission to send such emails?


  • How will this affect my reputation?

Adding  meet-in-person contacts to your list is a common sense decision. Keeping in mind that with a push of a button these people can (and will) flag you. Here is my list of things to think about before you put meet-in-person/phone contact on your list:

  • An exchange of a business card doesn’t warrant putting them on a list. Definitely follow up in a personal email. If your relationship moves forward, ask them directly, or better yet, have them opt in on your site.
  • Being a member of a club, organization, board of trade and adding contacts from their list is a definite no-no. This is a potential reputation buster, both with the club and all the members of it. Again, contact via phone or personal email on a one-on-one basis.
  • Collecting business cards at a trade show probably doesn’t warrant them going on your list either, even if you have a “fishbowl” (speaking from experience). Better idea: have a written opt in list where they have to write out their email address (and clearly state what they are opting in for). You may get less opt-ins this way, but your risk is lower.
  • New clients should probably be on your list, and most will accept this. As a full disclosure person, it might be best to ask first, or put it in your contract or policies and procedures. You may also want to keep a separate list for clients and consider marketing to them a bit differently.
  • To increase opt ins, give away something of value (a report, a video, an e-book) on your site. To get people you meet in person to convert, get a postcard made with the opt-in offer on it and simple directions on where to go to receive it.
  • Think about creating multiple lists. Some people you want to keep in touch with often, some not so often. Use your common sense to figure out where your contacts fit.
  • When in doubt, just DON’T. Better to keep the emails on a personal basis.

So yes, consider adding your in-person meets to your list but use your common sense here. Avoid the notion that your list has to quickly be HUGE. It may or may not be depending on your specific business. Bigger isn’t always better.  Grow it with integrity and it will work better for your business in the long run.

Work smarter, not harder!