Over the past week, two financial planners have told me how much they hate unsolicited emails. What they said led me to think about my own position. And while I completely understand their hatred, I can’t agree with them.
In fact, I’d go further: I love unsolicited emails.
Granted, some days it feels like I’m playing inbox whack-a-mole. For example, so far today (I’m writing this on Wednesday 19 July) I’ve had eight unsolicited sales messages:
- An offer of overseas website developers (thanks, but we only recruit in the UK)
- A report about employment trends in the UK (relevant and interesting)
- Someone asking me if we are taking on new accounting clients (er no, we’re a marketing agency)
- A catering company offering me free samples of their food (I’m on a diet!)
- Someone offering to help improve our cashflow with their new payment processing system (thanks, but no thanks)
- A local photographer asking if there are projects we can collaborate on (again, that’s interesting and relevant to us)
- A business offering to reduce my “false positives by 85%” (I really have no idea what that’s about and didn’t read the email to find out)
- A writer asking if they can submit a sponsored blog post on our site (no, SEO has moved on since 1998!)
I’ve unsubscribed from most of them (the photographer and recruitment consultant have been spared) but despite that, I still can’t bring myself to hate unsolicited emails.
1. I get to steal some great marketing ideas
No one has a monopoly on good ideas, right?
There have been plenty of times when I’ve received an unsolicited email with a clever hook or technique and thought, “I’ll steal that.”
I then think about how we can use the ideas, sometimes with slight modifications, to benefit our clients.
2. I learn from the mistakes of others
Although I’m always open to stealing someone else’s good ideas, most of the time the quality of unsolicited emails is poor.
Some recent ‘highlights’ include:
- “Dear <insert name>”
- “Dear Simon”
- “Subject line to be agreed”
Then there are the automated (and generally rude) follow-ups: “Hello, I am waiting for your response. Kindly update me about my last email.”
Every mistake they make is an opportunity to learn or a valuable reminder of how not to do things.
3. Unsolicited emails can open up significant opportunities
Over the years I’ve sent unsolicited (but targeted) emails to people I wanted to appear on our webinars, speak at events, or write guest blogs for us. They’ve always been well-received, and most have led to interesting conversations.
I’ve also sent direct approaches to people we want to do business with. We don’t use sales messages and always try to add value, but the approaches are, nevertheless, unsolicited.
Conversely, there are times when we’ve done business with people who have sent cold approaches. If an email is well written, ideally timed, and relevant I’m not going to dismiss it just because it was unsolicited.
Indeed, some of our closest supplier relationships, and best members of the Yardstick team, have come from unsolicited approaches.
They’re only trying to make a living
Finally, and I often have to remind myself about this, anyone who sends an unsolicited email is only trying to make a living or build a business.
Would I market myself how they do? Usually not.
But should I begrudge them for trying to make a living? Absolutely not. If they’re successful, hopefully, they’ll pay their taxes and who knows, provide employment opportunities. Both are good things.
So, while I frequently deploy the unsubscribe button, as someone interested in different marketing techniques (the good, the bad and the bloody ugly) I love unsolicited emails.
Turn a negative into a positive, by embracing spam
Despite GDPR, unsolicited emails haven’t stopped. In fact, with AI coming into the mainstream and automation at our fingertips, it’s only going to get worse.
So, if you can’t stop the spam, you might as well try and find the positives by learning from it.