SPAM Works!


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I’ve been getting some interesting responses from my post, When Will Sales People Stop This Insanely Stupid Behavior? A number of folks have correctly pointed out, if these techniques didn’t work, why do people continue to do them?

They are right–unfortunately, SPAM works. Those un-researched calls, where people are basically dialing arbitrary lists, and many other approaches do produce results. The thinking is, “We got 1 response for this 1000, so why don’t we do the same thing only for a million.” The cost of a SPAM campaign is virtually nothing, so the logic is reasonable–for every million, we get a 1000 responses, we then can convert a small percent of those…why not continue.

I think what people implementing this strategy may miss is the negative impact of this approach. They count the responses they get, but they never know the numbers of people they turn off–the people that make a choice they will not buy from this company. Organizations using this approach never measure, “what are we losing because of our techniques?” “how is this negatively impacting our brand, our reputation, the willingness of people to do business with us?”

SPAM “works” in another sense, the bad behavior tends to rub off on all of us. We all seek ways to “stand out.” As the noise level increases, too many organization chase escalating volume. More emails, more tweets, always more quantity, but not necessarily more in value and thought. We get caught in the sheer momentum of everything around us–crowd behavior starts to dominate even the well intended.

Prospects and customers escalate their defenses even more, more goes automatically into their SPAM filters. Organizations block all mail coming from certain sites, so we find other alternatives. The vicious cycle continues.

Then all of a sudden you see something–it truly stands out, not because of the flashiness or cleverness of the offer or copywriting, or the clever graphics. Certainly, not because of the number of times it has appeared in our inbox. Something stands out because it they seem to have read your mind. The sender is someone you know, they have sent you something that hits home, that is meaningful, relevant, and timely. It may not provoke an immediate response, but it’s something that stands out because they have reached right to what you need. It’s not something that has been sent to millions, but it is deeply personal. This can only be done by developing deep insight and understanding, by developing a relationship, by valuing that relationship. It’s hard work–there are lots of tools that help us with that, but it takes time, thought, and precision execution. It also takes resources.

SPAM works because it is the easy way out. It doesn’t take time, thoughtfulness or resources. It doesn’t require you understand who your customer is, what they value. It focuses on the transaction, at the expense of the relationship–but if we don’t care about the relationship, then why not?

SPAM works because of the concept of “impressions.” We do functionally the same thing in our relentless chase for “followers.”

SPAM will increase, it will exist in ever newer forms. Buyers will become more clever in their techniques of trying to filter through the SPAM. The cycle will continue because it does produce results–just enough to continue to justify the investment.

Ultimately, what we do becomes a choice. It’s about how we value our customers, what we want to stand for, what customer experience we are trying to create. As much as I like to think, there are better ways of doing things. SPAM does have its place for some organizations.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. You really hit the nail on the head about negative-will SPAM creates.

    I have actually QUIT doing business with companies that send spam! I feel sorry for one sales person who lost a sizable sale because his company put me on their spam list, and wouldn’t stop spamming me after several requests. He had done all the work, given me a competitive proposal, and was just about to get a signature. All that work flushed down the tubes because his marketing folks thought spam is a good idea.


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