Monday, February 9, 2009

Unsolicited B2B Email - SPAM or Not?

Ever since CAN-SPAM came out, I've been struggling to answer this question:

Since unsolicited email to business-people is not prohibited by CAN-SPAM regulations, is this a viable lead-generation activity, or is it something that we direct marketers should steer clear of?

Is it SPAM, or not?

The industry seems to be handling this a few ways. Many of the leading data firms (such as Experian and Acxiom) will not append email addresses to prospect lists; they'll only append emails to customer files, citing their strict focus on consumer privacy and compliance.
And, some providers of email marketing services first send an email to their list warning recipients that they're about to receive an email from Company X. This step allows the mail recipient to opt out of a specific offer.

On the other extreme, you see news stories like this one from Direct Magazine. The story outlines how one email list company may (or may not) have stolen a list of conference attendees and is now selling the file. The accused company claims that they legitimately collected the email addresses and have every right to sell them. Hmmm. Sounds fishy to me.

So, what say you? Is unsolicited B2B email--emails to people who you don't know--something that you support? Do you have any success stories? Horror stories?