Don’t Get Mad — Get Valium (Or Lessons I’ve Learned From Spam)

This article was originally posted on Active Rain in August 2007.

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 Almost everybody I talk to HATES spam and will go to any lengths to keep it out of their mailbox, including setting up incredibly restrictive filters.  The other night I asked my husband what had him so engrossed at his computer, and he replied that he was setting up rules in Outlook to quarantine spam.  I love my husband, but I couldn’t help smirking.  Can anybody really come up with “rules” fast enough to keep spam out?  Yes, a few four letter words and body part descriptions might help, but what agent wants to block anything that mentions money, or even bank accounts?  And define one body part today and tomorrow it starts showing up with a “period” in the middle of the word.

At our company, we have an internal corporate policy that we don’t block any, but the most obvious, spam.  Why?  Because we don’t want some artificial filter deciding which messages are legitimate business messages.  If you saw some of the bizarre, off-the-wall messages that we get from clients and prospective clients, you’d know what I mean.  It’s simply too dangerous to let an artificial intelligence decide which messages we should see.

Is our policy a hassle?  You bet.  Have we been able to sell our email clients on a similar policy?  Hardly.  But I still maintain that it’s worth a little of my time to avoid missing legitimate business messages.  Out of necessity, I’ve learned a few tricks for slogging through the junk pretty fast, but I think the trade off is worth it.  In short, I’ve made peace with spam.

Not only have I made peace, but I’ve also taken to looking at which spam message subject lines actually make me pause.  Laugh if you will, but we as marketing professionals (yes, I’m talking to YOU if you’re selling real estate) have a few shared interests with spammers, and I’ve started paying attention to which subject lines give me pause when I see them.  The title of this post, for instance, was a message line I saw this morning in my inbox.  Am I going to use it in our marketing copy?  Not a chance.  But it struck me as a fun title for a blog post title.

And no, I don’t evaluate each spam title in my box for future use.  I blow through with my delete button as fast as I humanly can, but at the same time staying open to looking twice at anything that catches my eye.  Marketing is playing to emotion.  Even a spammer might provide a little inspiration, in some odd way.

The same marketing gurus who told me to pay attention to the colors of my direct mail junk mail would be proud.

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