Good spam or bad spam? You decide …

spamLike you, I receive a lot of spam … fortunately Google’s g-mail picks most of it up and automatically dumps it into the ‘trash’ folder for me.

Most of the spam that I receive is of the “congratulations you have won the Dutch lottery” or the “Mr Nagambi, a senior official in the Uganda government needs your help” varieties. It seems that most spammers are happy with my current vitality and physical dimensions 😉

The problem is, this kind of spam receives no attention, because it takes more than it gives: “give me your credit card number and I will give you some purple tablets” [AJC: either that, or steal your money … spam ‘n scam!].

Good marketing, whilst often bordering on spam (be very careful not to cross the line, though!) gives in order to get: this could be free products (i.e. give me your e-mail address and I will send you my free report … followed by 7 carefully worded and timed sales letters), or simply some free information, like this unsolicited e-mail that I recently received:

Hi Adrian,

Only 43% of consumers will cut back on holiday spending this year, compared to 55% in 2008, according to a Consumer Federation of America survey. While increased consumer optimism spells good news for retailers, for Americans planning to “stretch” the budget, the New Year could bring falling credit scores, and with it, serious consequences.

Here are some fail-safe tips from FICO Credit Guru Shon Dellinger to help enthusiastic shoppers stay financially sound:

1. Be Smart with Credit. Using a credit card is ok – experts agree having 3-5 credit cards helps your credit, if used responsibly. But carrying a balance on your credit card leaves you (1) stuck paying interest that could cost you, in some cases, double or triple the cost of those gifts in the long run and (2) with a much lower credit score, which could jack up interest rates on your credit cards and jeopardize your chance of getting lines of credit elsewhere (buying a house, a car, etc.). Services like FICO Score Watch combat this by providing emails or texts alerting you to any changes in your FICO score (either positive or negative), and notifying you when you’ve qualified for a better interest rate. A credit score increase of 30 points will save the average consumer $105 per year.

For more information on FICO Score Watch, go to:

2. Resist “Short Savings.” The salesperson at your favorite department store offers you an instant 20% savings just for opening up a credit card in their name. While that $20 seems tempting at the time, it can quickly put you in debt if you’re not careful. The temptation of the deal is also one reason why the average consumer has a total of 13 credit cards. Opening new lines of credit can also hurt your credit score, so make sure the card meets your overall needs and not just your desire for quick savings.

3. Don’t Wait Till April! Many holiday shoppers use their Tax refund to pay off credit card balances left over from the holidays, which can be incredibly expensive, not to mention detrimental to your credit standing. A credit card balance of $500 dollars from January until April will cost you $237 dollars based on today’s average credit card interest rate.

Please let me know if you are interested in speaking with FICO credit guru Shon Dellinger about these credit saving holiday tips and what else consumers can do this year to assure that their 2011 New Year’s resolution isn’t fixing the damage they did to their credit in 2010. Also, the myFICO Forums can offer your readers helpful tips.


Ashley Kleinstein

Access PR for FICO

Now, I didn’t mind receiving this e-mail because it seems to offer useful information and isn’t directly asking for a sale, although I only gave it a cursory scan because my FICO score is just fine [AJC: and, thank you very much for asking 🙂 ].

Also, I know why this was sent to me: since it was sent under a PR agency’s moniker and I am a blogger, I surmise that they are really hoping that I (or the other personal finance ‘media’ people out there) will publish their content as an article [AJC: as I have ‘cleverly’ done here …. for all you new and aspiring bloggers out there, see how I just lifted some random content and made a post out of it? 😛 ]

What do you think? Is this an automatic delete? If you are not vehemently opposed to it, how would you improve the e-mail?

[Hint: I would present it as a free sample of an online newsletter and ‘click here if you would like to continue receiving it monthly …. usual price $79 for a year’s subscription, but free to you and no credit card required!’ to make it seem valuable]

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10 thoughts on “Good spam or bad spam? You decide …

  1. You can tell we have very different market profiles – your spam relates to money and finances, the biggest contribution to my spam folder is pharmacutical products.

    If you are going to sell something using spam, the things that will create some chance of me responding (positively) are (i) relevant to me (ii) short and to the point (iii) includes something that is free (iv) has an imbedded link to make the reply easy (v) avoids exaggerated claims, logical fallacies and excessive exclamation marks (vi) does not ask for personal information (vii) is well written.

    Your example is an automatic delete for me – I don’t need credit reports.

  2. >how would you improve the e-mail? #1

    Change the opening- I don’t care about all consumers I care about me! Write it addressing my concern-

    Do you want to know how to spend this Christmas without damaging your credit score?

    #2 There should be something to establish Shon Dellinger as an authority on credit worth my time.

    #3 After they get the free trial ask them to take a survey to state their opinion of the newsletter. Also ask for any friends they think would be interested in your newsletter- that way you have some leads you can open with:

    Your friend Adrian thought you might find this interesting…

    #4 If they had a positive opinion remind them when you send the follow up sales email. If they DIDN’T have a positive opinion then don’t waste your time sending them a sales email.

    #5 Offer a discount for a limited number of subscribers and for a limited amount of time.

    #6 Use any feedback to improve your newsletter and the prospects for getting paid for it.

    -Rick Francis

  3. As you mentioned how close to the line is marketing to spamming?
    Look for example TV ads, we get the same ad played over and over again in each break from the main program, yet this is not consider spamming?
    Like a quality TV ad that has time and money spent on it, a sales letter to your inbox with good content is not considered spam! To many marketers are typing and praying their offer will be picked up! Not good.

  4. @ Adrian – not sure if you are referring to not needing to see my credit reports (I never have – I’ll just keep borrowing until the bank says “no”) or the pharmacutical products (memory loss, hair loss and others – I’m sure my wife is encouraging people to send me most of these)

    @ Rick, with respect:

    (i) any reference to a “friend” whether named or not being the basis of a referal is an automatic delete for me. In my experience 99.99% of the time it is a lie and tells me the sender is not to be trusted

    (ii) asking me to give out friends’ contact details so they can be spammed as well is also an automatic delete. I value my friends more than that and am not going to waste my time providing a free marketing service for a stranger who is spamming my in-box

    (iii) discount to a limited number of subscribers is an automatic delete for me as well – it’s a form of pressure sales tactic which I hate

    Quite frankly, the chances of getting me to respond at all to any spam e-mail is only marginally higher than the chances of my supporting a proposal to increase taxes

  5. @ Aaron – IMHO, the sole purpose of a mailing like this should be to try and have the recipient opt in to a repeat mailing (e.g. newsletter) and use THAT to lead into sales letters.

    @ Trainee – … or “excessive exclamation marks” 😛

    @ Rick – All excellent points …. I agree with Trainee, though: spam has little chance of success, but your points add more and more value as the targeting/relevance of the mailing increases (e.g. opt in … see my response to Aaron, above)

  6. I agree that span has little chance of success- the trick is that well written spam may be say 0.002% effective rather than 0.001% effective. Spam by its nature needs to go to millions to have any chance of making reasonable income.

    @ Trainee – you are not the target audience. It sound like you delete any and all spam- honestly I do too, I just find it annoying!

    However, they are people that don’t or no one would still send out spam.

    I didn’t just make up the tactics I listed – they come from Influence the Psychology of Persuasion. All of categories of tactics have been shown by researchers to improve sales.

    The book also points out that people believe that they are not affected by such gimmicky tactics, but the research shows that they really are affected.

    -Rick Francis

  7. @ Rick – doubling a spammer’s returns (no matter how small the ‘hit rate’ to begin with) would be a phenominal result; even a 10% improvement could be a great result … for them, unfortunately not for us 😉

  8. usually delete all spam! except for the odd one, last week one had “free beer” as a subject. welcome to jamaica mon, have a nice day.

  9. Promotion needs to concentrate on the unique selling point / differentiator of the product you are selling, so this would be promotion through media (the choice of which depends on place

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