Respect your network

Email newsletters are a terrific marketing tool and good manners and common sense help their effectiveness. There’s even some legal requirements to watch. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

Australia’s Spam Act is just over five years old, and it’s had some success in keeping locally sourced junk email to reasonable limits along with catching the odd perpetrator.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has plenty of Spam Act information for business owners on its website and the requirements can be summarised in three principles – get consent, identify yourself, and make it easy to unsubscribe.

Before you can send commercial emails to people, they need to ask for them. In itself, this requirement eliminates your emails being classified as spam given the definition of spam is unsolicited emails.

Identity is important, as the recipient needs to know who the email is from. All legitimate businesses should have no problem with this.

Finally, unsubscribing is simply good manners. For a business owner there is absolutely no point in irritating potential customers and partners who don’t want your messages.

The sticking point in all of this is defining consent. The loophole in the act defines “inferred consent” if you have an “existing business relationship”. The current interpretation of a business relationship is merely having the business card of the recipient.

Sadly this gives any dolt you’ve been foolish enough to give a business card to at a networking function permission to bombard you with invites to get-rich-quick seminars and share boat schemes.

I can’t tell you how irritating I find idiots sending me three pointless emails a week because I put my card in the door prize bowl or gave the courtesy of exchanging cards while talking.

Even worse are the dills who start sending SMS messages to your mobile phone. In fact I’m amazed that anyone thinks ultra intrusive text spam is an effective way to generate goodwill for a business.

A particular difficulty with spamming people in your network is that your paths will almost certainly cross again, which can put all parties in a difficult position.

So don’t simply add everyone who gives you their business card to your mailing list. By all means send them a follow up email, phone call or postcard, and certainly offer to connect to them on social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, but spare everyone the spam.

Understanding your responsibilities under the Spam Act will help you get more from your mailing lists. Adding some common sense and manners goes a long way too.


Paul Wallbank speaks and writes on how business owners can meet the challenges of the new economy. A business owner himself, Paul has spent over 15 years helping businesses achieve their potential. He has two computer advice websites; PC Rescue and IT Queries, and appears monthly on ABC Local Radio’s Nightlife program and Sydney 702 weekends.

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Kevin Morrisey writes: “Understanding your responsibilities under the Spam Act” is something you seem to recommend and not follow. You should read up on “implicit permission”, which includes conspicuously publishing your email address, which would include handing out cards at “networking” functions. Alternately, you could have printed on your card “I welcome your contact only if it is good for me, and not if it is of benefit to you”.

Paul Wallbank replies: Thanks very much for your comment Kevin. I’m afraid you’ve missed the point of the article. As I discuss in the post, “implicit permission” or “inferred consent” does give you the right to spam anyone foolish enough to give you their business card or display their email address prominently. However, it’s not good form and is particularly counter productive if you are irritating people in your business network.  As you point out, marketing needs to benefit both parties. Spamming doesn’t do this as it creates ill will towards the sender. Even if an unsolicited email passes the “inferred consent” test it is simply not a good way to do business. Don’t do it unless you have explicit permission.



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