Capitalizing on “Teachable Moments”

    July 19, 2000

This is a lesson about spam. The good kind. The kind that can earn you a valuable customer and friend.

I’m not talking about the bulk emailers. They are not your friends. They know exactly what they’re doing and they don’t care that you don’t want their mail. They’ll just keep sending it out, working around the system, taking their profits anyway they can get them. The phrase “customer service” is not in their vocabulary.

I’m not talking about those who skirt the edges of proper netiquette. You know the ones; they respond to your ad with one that reads something like this –

Hello! I saw your ad in XYZ classifieds. I would like more information about your opportunity as I am always looking to add to my portfolio.

Right now I am involved in a wonderful opportunity and having great success with it. Perhaps you’d like to take a look at it?

Best wishes for your success!

I. M. Aspammer

Look familiar? We’ve all received them, in one form or another. Sure, they’re interested in adding to their portfolio! Hey, I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night.

The “spammers” I’m talking about are the innocents – the newbies who have no idea that what they are doing is wrong. Generally speaking, they are spamming you because that’s exactly how they got involved in their opportunity in the first place and didn’t know how much trouble they could get in by doing it to others.

Hello – I just learned of a new way to make money online and thought you might be interested in it as well. If you are just reply to this email and put “interested” in the subject line.

This one’s a dead giveaway. No pretense of being interested in your offer AND simply asking you to reply. No fake email address; no fake removal instructions. A sitting duck for the zealots who take great pleasure in reporting people to their ISP (when do they have time to get any REAL work done?)

If you’ve been marketing on the internet for any length of time you’ve received some form of all three of the above examples. If you’re like most, you simply delete them. Trying to report all bulk emailers is just too much a waste of your valuable time, and trying to talk some sense into the type of person illustrated in the second example is, for the most part, an exercise in futility.

But what about the truly innocent spammer? This is one email that I always try to respond to. Why? Because if I take the time to take advantage of this “teachable moment,” and explain to this individual why their actions are inconsistent with proper online marketing and what the consequences could be (in a caring way, of course), then chances are that person is going to turn to me for advice and counsel when he or she realizes that what they’re doing isn’t working.

How do I know this is a productive exercise? Because I’ve done it. And I’ve gained some loyal customers and friends as a result. What goes around comes around, as the saying goes. And nowhere is this more true than online.

So the next time you are approached by one of the true innocents, hesitate before you hit the “delete” key. Give yourself the chance to be a teacher – one way or another, you will be rewarded!

Cathy Bryant has been marketing online since the last century, so she knows what works and what doesn’t. Right now she’s offering a terrific 5-part mini-course titled, “Promoting Your Business Without Busting Your Budget!” You may access a copy by sending a blank email to: