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"SPAM And The Art Of Marketing Maintenance..."

By Roger J. Burke
Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Here is my latest article. It may be freely used in ezines, on websites or in e-books, as long as the Resource Box is left intact.

I would appreciate notification of where it was used, and if possible, a copy of the ezine or newsletter that it was used in. Please send notification

I detest SPAM, but there's an awful lot of it going around the Net, as you know. Co-incidentally, there's an awful lot of another-four-letter-word-that-starts-with-S going around with it (just so there's no mis-understandings, I'm talking about porn)!

If you don't know what SPAM is, most Netizens would maybe say "any unsolicited commercial email". Others, more strident, would say "any email I didn't want", which sort of begs the question, doesn't it?

Now, it (almost) goes with saying that unsolicited, bulk, commercial email is - to put it delicately - a pain in the posterior. We've all been getting a lot of it already through our regular, bricks-and-mortar mailbox for years, so why should we have to put up with it over the Net?

Well, the short answer is, of course, we don't! What do you do now with the SPAM in your real mail-box? likewise with the electronic variety and leave it at that: problem gone.

Not "solved" of course, just gone - until next time. And, that gets pretty tedious and annoying, right? Right...

Enter the anti-SPAM legislators.

And, quite properly too. However, granted that there should be, and must be, some form of penalties applied to repeated offenders (offline and online), still I think we have to be careful - to use a fractured phrase - not to crack the egg that the golden goose laid!

Picture this: You operate a successful bakery and are doing alright. You don't have a website yet, your profits are good and you're holding your own against the competition in town. There you are, busily getting the next batch of muffins into the oven and this guy walks into your store. Happily, you put down baking tray, take off your baker's hat, and turn to what you think is the next customer.

Only, he isn't.

Instead, after politely introducing himself and establishing his credentials as the new kid on the block from the Better Baking Soda Company, he then calmly tells you that he can improve your profits by 25% if you use his fantastic new baking soda.

Are you going to start throwing week-old muffins at him, for having the audacity to interrupt your work? Or, knowing what your costs are, vis-a-vis the whole baking process, are you going to stop and think for a bit - and then start throwing the muffins, but only maybe? ;-) On the other hand, maybe your business isn't doing too well, or you want to do better. Instead of throwing those muffins, maybe you should think about how you can make them last longer?

That's a very simple scenario, but one that is repeated thousands of time, every day, in all forms of business. Indeed, it's how many businesses must operate, being those types that sell only to other businesses. And, one of the most important tools of business is marketing, its proper operation and its effective maintenance.

With apologies to Robert Pirsig, I have slavishly copied the style of his very famous book - "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" - into the title of this article. That, of course, is where any further comparison stops.

I do, however, have a good reason for concocting my title.

I recall that Mr Pirsig's book explored themes for an improvement in self (in particular) and society (by inference), and one of those themes was QUALITY. Applied to every aspect of our existence, the quality of what we do can have a profound effect, from highly positive to lowly negative. Whatever we say and do, write and send, can have those effects, obviously.

So, maybe it's not so much the quantity of SPAM that we all get that is the problem (although, there are limits, right!). Maybe, we should be concerned more with the quality - in the broadest sense - of the message? In particular, I'm thinking of messages that are relevant, appropriate, targeted and - dare I say it - even helpful!

However, the SPAM we all love to hate - shot-gun style, bulk commercial email, splattering all through the system - would obviously rate very low in the quality stakes, for most people (although, just quietly, I understand there is a secret network of SPAMmers who simply delight in sending each other into lowly orbit every day?), but business-to-business email must surely have its proper place. And, that would include all businesses, of course, not just Blue Chip and Silicon Valley...

Which, very soon (if not already), will begin to trouble the strident anti-spammers even more: as more and more people set up their own online e-businesses all over the world, there may come a time when there are more businesses online than there are mere consumers., there's a thought! ;-(o)

You are no doubt aware that many agencies - government and private - continue to grapple with the SPAM genie, but ultimately it is, I think, impossible to "get it back in the bottle".

In that regard, I have read a number of articles - and have even received an unsolicited email about "permission marketing"! I have responded to some but, try as I might, none have returned with an unequivocal, "dyed-in-the-wool", "shake-it-till-it-breaks" definition for permission marketing. I suspect it will be a while before I do.

But, I would be eternally grateful to anybody who can supply it!

Somebody once said, "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." Well...fatuous as that may sound, we are all trying to "sell" something to somebody. Right?

By all means protect the consumer to a reasonable and effective degree, with appropriate legislation and penalties. But, it would be shooting ourselves in the foot (or worse) to burden e-business with self-destructive restrictions and penalties.

Copyright 2001, Online-Wealth. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Roger Burke has been involved with computers since 1967, and has managed to break quite a few, over the years. He, and his wife Sherry, are now actively engaged in online self-publishing and promoting specific affiliate programs at ( If you have any comments or questions about this article, please send emails to


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