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Help me head off a future spammer

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Mar. 11th, 2004 | 11:55 am
mood: workingworking
music: MIDI Ringtones

I'm advising a small business owner and bidding on setting up a web presence for him. He's a good businessman and understands the issues involved reasonably well.

However, he is considering buying an application that harvests email addresses from the web that relate to a list of relevant keywords, and sending unsolicited commercial e-mails to those addresses. He plans to keep track of bounces and 'remove' requests personally.

Um, yeah. I've told him it's almost too risky for me professionally to have any association with his site or his company if he uses this approach.

Help me be proactive here. I want to lay out a convincing alternative plan, and it has to be cheap. What should a brand-new service-industry business with no physical presence do to get clients? Referrals are the best business, of course, but you can't get those until you've had some customers to begin with!

All opinions welcome.

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Comments {16}

QOTJ

(no subject)

from: sheenaqotj
date: Mar. 11th, 2004 10:28 am (UTC)
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What is his business actually, and how large scale? I would suggest actively advertizing, but that would depend on how much money he has to begin with?

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Triple Entendre

(no subject)

from: triple_entendre
date: Mar. 11th, 2004 10:47 am (UTC)
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I don't want to be too specific in this context. Hypothetically, let's say it's a two-man lawn-care service. How would you advertise, assuming you haven't made any money yet?

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QOTJ

(no subject)

from: sheenaqotj
date: Mar. 11th, 2004 11:10 am (UTC)
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He could consider yellow pages and other publications. He could consider buying google ads.

There are also a few local events that might serve the purpose. For instance, my group Tapestry Singers is selling partial page ads for as little as $20 to put in the program book for their concert.

He could also do promotions like doing it for free for the first couple of people just to get references.

Hmm... I could use some reasonably-priced lawn care services. :)

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Triple Entendre

(no subject)

from: triple_entendre
date: Mar. 16th, 2004 07:16 pm (UTC)
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Sponsoring local groups is an excellent suggestion. Thank you!

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Chef Monkey

Pull beats push every time.

from: chefmonkey
date: Mar. 11th, 2004 10:52 am (UTC)
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Google adwords does basically the same sort of thing that your client wants: highly targeted advertisements. They pop up on Google itself in response to searches containing keywords, but more importantly, they're used by a large number of sites like banner ads are -- except they're keyed off the text that appears on the actual page. They can even be used to target specific geographical areas. They are relatively inexpensive, and allow you to set limits (e.g. "I don't want to spend more than $5 per day, so stop serving my ad when that limit is reached") to avoid nasty billing shocks. Best of all, they don't charge per impression; they only charge for the number of times that a user actually clicks through an ad to go to your site. So, if it doesn't deliver traffic to your website, you don't pay anything.

You might also point out that if the Hindus are right, then moving forward with his previous plans guarantees that he has no chance of coming back as anything more advanced than an entamoeba histolytica.

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Triple Entendre

Re: Pull beats push every time.

from: triple_entendre
date: Mar. 16th, 2004 06:49 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. I'm putting this straight into my notes.

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(Deleted comment)

Re: as a former small business owner

from: nobodobodon
date: Mar. 11th, 2004 01:27 pm (UTC)
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All what he said and more:

Spam doesn't work.

People ignore spam. Most of the spam you get is from people that were suckered into pyramid schemes, waiting to get rich from signing up other spammers, not getting rich selling you painful erections. Not only will he generate ill-will, he won't actually generate business from the spam.

Why is there so much spam if it doesn't work? Same reason there are so many ads for coke and pepsi. The trick is not to sell coke and pepsi to the public, the trick is to sell the ADS to the executives at coke and pepsi. More and more, advertising is becoming meta-advertising. We're no longer selling products to people, we're selling the ads themselves.

If Coke and Pepsi stopped advertising for an entire year, how much would that really affect their bottom line> ???

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dr. pangloss

Re: as a former small business owner

from: denshi
date: Mar. 12th, 2004 08:41 am (UTC)
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Advertising isn't about changing rational decision-making, it's about altering the field of choices. The trick is to make a person have to process the idea of the product, and when access to product is ubiquitous, it's easier to go with the imagery than sort out the mental noise. It's similar to the way that culturally dominant religion shapes what spiritual questions are considered valid. The answers are still disputable, but the shape of the argument is defined by the 'advertising'.

Anyway, these are companies that depend on a 5-10% yearly growth rate. Losing a couple percent of possible future customers is a big deal to their bottom line.

That said, yes, seperate ads are becoming irrelevant and the ad market has become a wierd sort of metamarket. The useful advertising has since moved to product placements within the content programs they used to surround. It's an ad, ad world.

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Triple Entendre

Re: as a former small business owner

from: triple_entendre
date: Mar. 16th, 2004 07:34 pm (UTC)
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Good description of consensus reality there.
Anyway, these are companies that depend on a 5-10% yearly growth rate. Losing a couple percent of possible future customers is a big deal to their bottom line.
That sounds so high. How does that compare to population growth?
It's an ad, ad world.
I like meta, but not meta-malignancies like pyramidal UCE. Yuck-o.

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Triple Entendre

Re: as a former small business owner

from: triple_entendre
date: Mar. 16th, 2004 07:33 pm (UTC)
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Most of the spam you get is from people that were suckered into pyramid schemes
Now that's fascinating. Do you have any references on that?

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Re: as a former small business owner

from: nobodobodon
date: Mar. 17th, 2004 08:22 am (UTC)
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No, I'm mostly going on my statistical instinct here.

How many people really buy viagra and cialis and cock-and-tit enhancers from this spam? Very, very few. How much profit is there in all this? Very little. I've read an interview of a spammer (ironically, the product she was hawking at the time was spam-blocking software), and she discusses some of the economics behind it. The break-even point for a product with a $30 profit margin came in somewhere in the 1 in a million range. (In other words, send out 10 million e-mails, get 10 buyers from it.) It might have been more like 1 in 10 million. Still, it was in that range.

How many e-mails per week are there for the worst offenders? Weird loan offers, canadian prescription, herbal tits and dicks, and the mysterious empty e-mails used simply to test for bounces? I would estimate on the order of 500 million total, maybe more. How many people a week are buying these things? Not a year ago, but today. New customers? I think the market has to be nearly saturated. And yet, the volume is turned up. Sure, as the market gets more saturated, your return rate goes up from 1 in a million to 10, to 100. But at some point, it's no longer worth the time and trouble to send those. Spam's not entirely free, someone has to put some time into it.

I also receive a lot of ads for lists of e-mail addresses. Basically, people are selling spamming-tools. Seems to me that spammers are spamming each other now.

Elemental Ma, dreary whatsis.

I may have already mentioned the parallel to what's going on in regular advertising these days, how advertising agents are not really interested in selling products to the public, they're interested in selling ads to companies. More effective than being effective. Eventually, the serpent gets hungry enough to have a taste of its own tail.

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Triple Entendre

Re: as a former small business owner

from: triple_entendre
date: Mar. 16th, 2004 07:18 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I think you covered just about everything pretty neatly.

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(no subject)

from: spumoni
date: Mar. 11th, 2004 03:58 pm (UTC)
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I have to second the advice that spam just doesn't work. To illustrate your point, perhaps you could ask your client when was the last time he actually purchased a product or service because of an unsolicited email he recieved?

My guess is never.
He's going to waste money on an application that will not only not yield positive results, it's likely to create a very negative impression of his business.

Ask him to look at it from the potential customer point of view. If he doesn't get it, then he's narrow and hopeless, anyway.

(By the way, hi there.)

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Triple Entendre

WWID

from: triple_entendre
date: Mar. 16th, 2004 07:28 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I think this is the most critical point: he doesn't realize how much trouble this could cause for him. He's intending to use his own email server, but I doubt he realizes what the backlash would be like.

And, Hi there! when are you moving? (I live here now.)

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Chef Monkey

More datapoints

from: chefmonkey
date: Mar. 15th, 2004 10:51 am (UTC)
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Many people respond better to anecdotes than to logic. Below, you'll find an email I received that was obviously billed as "targeted" marketing. I am a telecommunications engineer. I didn't even know that you could fuel-inject diesel engines.

Dear Sir, 

 we have been in the field of diesel fuel injection 
systems for quite a few years.(CHINA)

Recently we have developed a new kind of h&r,
"CH-D90101A=AM Bosch number HD90101A"Its unit price is USD150/pc.And 
we also adjust the unit price of Nozzle , Plunger to USD4~8/pc
respectively.

We tell you that we will update our VE h&r
(hydraulic heads for the VE distributor pump) list in our 
homepages.Thirty more models will be added.And the minimum
order will be 10pcs a model.


we give the unity quotation of VE distributor head:

3-cyl:USD:55/1pcs
4-cyl:USD:40~50/1pcs
5-cyl:USD:60/1pcs
6-cyl:USD:45~50/1pcs

  We can ship the following three models to you within 6~8 weeks. after
 we receive your payment.
  If you feel interested in our products,please advise the details about
 what you need,such model name,part number,quantity and so on.We are always
 within your touch.

Thanks and best regards

Looking forward to our favorable cooperation.
Hope to hear from you soon.
(NIPPON DENSO)

  We have a large number of nozzle, plunger and delivery valve
in stock.Here is a list of part of them.
<4 kb of part numbers elided>
"
marketingdirecto@eyou.com

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Triple Entendre

Re: More datapoints

from: triple_entendre
date: Mar. 16th, 2004 07:37 pm (UTC)
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LOL

I almost never get spam, but I got one almost immediately after I posted my question. (No, there's no correlation there, because it's against one of my traceable anonymized disposable addresses, but it was still funny.)

It was spam asking my permission (ala the "CAN SPAM" act) to spam me.

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