email overloadThere’s a disturbing networking trend going on. If you hand out your business card, the recipient sometimes thinks that’s permission to automatically sign you up for their bulk sales and marketing email messages.

I understand many people have something to sell, whether a product or service, and they’re therefore looking to increase their pool of prospects.  Fair enough.  But this is the wrong way to go about it because those unrequested emails are spam. Yep. Spam.

Sharing business cards is the start of building a business relationship.  Not the start of the selling process.  People do business with people they know, like and trust.  They do not do business with people clearly are more interested in what they can get than what they can give.

Every client I work with struggles with the masses of email they have to wade through.  And nearly every one of them has said they resent being included in bulk email they didn’t request.  This this post:  To help the many who are getting buried by sales pitches or unsolicited emails offering free stuff or even free (but unwanted) information.

So I have two messages:  One to the “victims” and one to the “perpetrators.”

To the victim:  If the emails are unwelcome, unsubscribe and don’t for a second feel bad about it, even if you’ve met the person.  You didn’t ask for it and the sender needs to learn about building relationships.  If the sender is using regular email for bulk messages rather than a contact management program, it’s okay to mark it as junk or spam to block further communication.  Again, no need to feel bad for one second for doing so.

To the perpetrator:  If you send bulk emails, use a contact management system and only send your marketing and sales information to people who have opted in.  Blanket the earth with your sales message via Twitter or other social media outlets if you must (though you may find your connections and followers dwindling, if all you do on those is sell).  Feel free to send personal, individual emails to people from whom you’ve collected a business card.  That’s one good way to start building a relationship.  And once you’ve let this new person get to know you and they’ve seen how respectful you are of their time and how much you’re interested in their specific needs, they will probably be happy to do business with you when they need what you offer.

8 Comments

  1. Shelby Blanchard Stogner on February 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Absolutely spot-on. I think the issue of being respectful of someone else’s time is very important, both in the initial contacts (meeting and follow-up email) and as you build a relationship. After all, why would I want to build a business relationship with someone who clearly hasn’t thought about my time, only about how adding me to their list could benefit them? Someone who respects my time and offers value, on the other hand, is someone I know I can trust and do business with.



  2. Sue Harrison on February 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Very good information, thank you very much! But what about the people who sign up and then unsubscribe as soon as I e-mail them?



  3. Paul Swarthout on February 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    One thought come to mind:

    Never, ever, unsubscribe to any bulk email that didn’t find you from a personal contact or from a company that you have personally done business with. Email addresses are almost like money. If you choose to unsubscribe to bulk email that you’re not familiar with the sender, you run the risk of having them sell your, now, verified email address to other spammers. Unsubscribing from the wrong message can sometimes increase the amount of SPAM you receive three-fold.



  4. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on February 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Very good advice, Paul. Here I was talking about people that had actually exchanged cards, and so the recipient of the unwanted email should know the sender is a real person. But in other cases, caution is certainly advised. Thanks for that extra bit of smarts!



  5. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on February 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    It’s a bummer when that happens. But you just have to let ’em go, huh. People subscribe quickly sometimes and then realize they can’t keep up with everything they’ve signed up for. If it happens too terribly much, maybe an exit survey could provide some valuable information.



  6. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on February 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Love hearing that someone else is on the same page! Respectful Marketers Unite!



  7. Nancy Hightshoe on February 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Let me weigh in, too. I do receive quite a few e-newsletters, and read the subject line then open it if the topic is one about which I’d like more information. If not, I delete THAT email, but stay on the list – especially if I know the individual.

    I’ve had the experience of someone “unsubscribing” from my e-newsletter, LifeSkills, then ask me to make an introduction for them and refer their services.

    Though I definitely agree about developing relationships, I think it’s throwing the baby out with the bath water to unsubscribe from a person you know…or might want to do business with in the future.

    Just a thought…



  8. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on February 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    The important distinction for me, and the point I’m making in the post, is that people should not automatically suscribe people to their bulk email lists without permission. I subscribe generously in an effort to support other people and help spread the word about their businesses. But it needs to be my choice. If they get my card, and then send a follow-up personal email with a request to sign up and link to do so, I’m cool with that. But giving a new acquaintance a business card is not, in my view, permission to skip that relationship building step.