As time goes on, my definition of spam has gotten larger and larger. If you’re thinking about sending something and wonder “would this be considered spam?”, yes, it probably would be.
My definition of spam has grown to simply include any cold contact. A cold email, a cold LinkedIn message, a cold phone call — they’re all spam.
I know some of you are thinking “my emails aren’t spam because I can really help people with my offering“. That may be accurate, but almost everyone else believes the exact same thing.
The Magic Checkbox
I had to face myself on this recently regarding the magic checkbox. As I explain in this post from a few years ago, the “magic checkbox” in WordPress can be devastating. Thousands of sites mistakenly have it checked, and they’re costing themselves untold numbers of potential customers.
I found a way to find sites that do this, and wanted to reach out to them and let them know. Even though this could be cold email, it’s ok because “I can really help people”, right? It’s still spam.
Really, I would love to track down sites that do this and put them onto a short automated drip campaign. I’d help tons of people, and a subset of them might want to engage us for more work. I won’t do it, though, because it’s still spam.
Spammers will say that you just need to opt-out. If you aren’t interested in their message, you can just unsubscribe and never hear from them again. That’d be ok, but it doesn’t scale. As Seth Godin has said, “how many times a day should we have to opt out, communicating with businesses we never asked to hear from in the first place?“.
It’s going to get worse, too. For the past few years, I’ve generally been able to tell when someone is legit one-on-one emailing me. It’s still cold, it’s still spam, but it’s perhaps marginally more acceptable. With the growth of AI, though, even those are done. It’s trivial to load up an AI bot with 10,000 email address, have them find something unique to say to each person, and then blast it out. If people don’t like it, they can just unsubscribe, right?
The beauty of today’s age is that you don’t need to resort to those kinds of tactics. You can put out great content to showcase your skills, and put yourself in places where people will find you. You can do great work for your existing clients so that they’ll want to tell their friends about you.
Lastly, cold emails put you in the domain of spammers. Do you want to be seen as an expert (and remember, experts don’t cold call) or would you rather be lumped in with all of the other garbage that is sent every day?
It seems like a pretty easy decision to make.