Use of spam to market automation products

A

Thread Starter

Alex Pavloff

Recently, I got a spam from a company called "BJS Power" trying to hock some wares that had nothing to do with me. I suspect that they grabbed my address from the A-List, but thats neither here nor there. My ISP runs spam filters which thankfully prevent my company from ever seeing the spam which is increasing every day, but this one was innocuous enough that it got through.

So I just deleted the spam as usual. However, this company (or the spammer they hired) munged the mail headers in such way that the reply-to address is another of the people that they spammed.

So over the last day, I've gotten irritated mail from New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, and India, some with rather colorful descriptions of what I can do with various parts f my anatomy.

What do companies that spam, especially in this manner, think they're doing? Personally, I'm never going to buy from these folks, even if I was in their sector. Heck, coworkers at my company have been known to call up on the phone and lay into companies that send them unsolicited mail.

I understand the need to market your products -- but I'm curious what the marketing gurus think is are the "rules of conduct" when it comes to marketing through email. Any thoughts?

Alex Pavloff - [email protected]
Eason Technology -- www.eason.com
 
A

Anthony Kerstens

I'm no marketing guru, but in my book it's best not to annoy customers.

As far as spam goes, I've been running Spamnet (by Cloudmark) which integrates into Outlook. I'm quite happy with it and the price is right (free). It has been working much better than the other spam filters I've tried.

Anthony Kerstens P.Eng.
 
Alex;

Email marketing is a HUGE piece of my business. I personally send >50 email letters every day to recipients who have contacted me through the
"Contact Us" link on my web site.

I NEVER send unsolicited mail.

Like you, I receive dozens of advertising messages every day, ranging from enlarging my breasts to hot stock tips. Everyone of them ends up in my bit bucket.

Unfortunately, this is a fact of internet life, no different than receiving junk snail mail.

Mark Hill - President, EESiFlo (North America)
[email protected]
 
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Donald Pittendrigh

Hi All

The low life who abuses the internet in this way is generally too stupid to do his own professional marketing and therefore definitely too stupid to realize that most internet users will never read his mail and delete it without giving it the time of day.

There is unfortunately not an awful lot one can do about this disease, it is rather a sign of the times, that is the spamming, hopefully not the
stupidity, although, sometimes I wonder.....

Regards
Donald Pittendrigh
 
R

Ralph Mackiewicz

> Recently, I got a spam from a company called "BJS Power" trying to
> hock some wares that had nothing to do with me....snip...snip...
> However, this company (or the spammer they hired) munged the mail
> headers in such way that the reply-to address is another of the
> people that they spammed.
>
> So over the last day, I've gotten irritated mail from New Zealand, the
> United Arab Emirates, Argentina, and India, some with rather colorful
> descriptions of what I can do with various parts of my anatomy.

The exact same thing happened to me. The people that contacted me were nice enough about it though. A close examination of the headers showed that the email did not come from me. This wasn't the first time I got a spam from these guys.

IMHO the people at BJS are, shall we say, not very savvy. Talk about alienating potential customers. It is bad enough that they send spam. But to fake the email headers using the addresses of the people you are spamming? I can't imagine how they think this will work to build a business.

I would caution everybody not to confuse these guys with BJ Services which is a reputable oil platform services company.

> I understand the need to market your products -- but I'm curious what
> the marketing gurus think is are the "rules of conduct" when it comes
> to marketing through email. Any thoughts?

I'm no "guru" but there are indeed email practices that won't offend and then there are practices that do offend. Opt-in lists are very popular and I belong to a number of them. I think it is also possible to use unsolicited email to existing customers given that you offer them the opportunity to opt-out. And, I personally don't mind (although many others do) an occasional spam from a company provided that they only send it to me once so that if I ignore it I won't be bothered again. There are also web sites that will send out emails to their membership for a fee that I have been told have produced good results for the money spent. I get a number of these and I don't mind this although I don't recall ever having responded to any of them. I do find it rather despicable to fake email headers regardless of what you are trying to sell. I have seen spammers claim that they have to fake headers to avoid the retaliation of anti-spam "zealots". It is hard to have any sympathy for them though. Faking the headers for an email that is clearly related to a single specific company's products seems pointless.

The trouble with any email marketing program that is not opt-in is that the problem of spam is so pervasive, and much of it is so offensive, that many people will react very negatively even if you try to do it in a nice way. IMHO its simply not worth doing except to people that you know positively absolutely are interested in what you have to say or if you are selling something that requires little or no customer loyalty (like a good price on N*orton A*ntiv*irus or i*nk jet c*artridges). I don't think SCADA systems meet this criteria.

Spamming is a serious problem that happens because the practically free nature of sending email means that even a 0.001% response rate for sending out 10,000,000 emails can result in a profitable activity. Until it actually costs on a per message basis to send email (something that I am NOT advocating) it is likely to be with us for some time.

Ralph
 
Mass spamming is very cheap and easy, like junk phone calls and faxes. I just delete them immediately, since spending any time talking to them is just a waste.
 
L

Linnell, Tim

I had the same thing, through the same company, and the e-mail appeared to come from my address. On contacting them, they explained that there had been a 'break in' to their systems and that the message had been sent in error. Not sure if I believe that, but I've let the matter drop for the moment. If it is spam originating from the company involved, it would be tantamount to fraudulent use of a trademark and company name, so does strike me as rather serious.

Tim Linnell (Eurotherm)
 
S

Steve Myres, PE

I had exactly the same experience. The guy from NZ was unduly snotty, I thought. As far as I'm concerned, spam could be made a hanging offense and it wouldn't bother me a bit. I would NEVER buy or recommend this product, just on the basis of this behavior.
 
W
Mark is right. I just gave a seminar for the Clallam County (WA) Economic Development Council about "Driving Customers to Your Website" and I talked about email marketing.

IF you do it right, it is very effective. Spitzer and Boyes sends out emails periodically to our lists, but only when we have something to say. And we always make sure to provide some value over and above the advertising message.

We get very few "take us off your list" messages.

One of the reasons for this, as I pointed out in the ebook I produced for the seminar, is that we use our own list, and we don't buy names from anybody.

Therefore, we only talk about automation issues, and we don't discuss pectoral (or other) enlargement techniques.

Anybody who's interested in the ebook, by the way, can download a free copy at http://www.spitzerandboyes.com/Walts_writing/clallam.pdf

Walt Boyes

---------------------
Spitzer and Boyes LLC
"consulting from the engineer
to the distribution channel"
21118 SE 278th Place
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Ph. 425-432-8262
Fx. 253-981-0285
[email protected]
www.spitzerandboyes.com
--------------------------
 
M

Michael Griffin

I got the same spam message, along with an irate reply from someone in New Zealand. I suspect that I wasn't the intended target of the irate reply, but that the reply was forwarded to people on the original spam list.

"BJS Power" appears to be a company involve in SCADA systems for the electrical industry in New Zealand. I'm not in the electricity business in New Zealand, so this message hasn't affected my intended relations with this company in the slightest.

There really isn't much practical difference between the spam from BJS and sort of messages I also get which offer various sorts of anatomical enlargements, or promise that I can lose weight without diet or exercise. These are all just messages which are sent out to a random collection of e-mail addresses, almost all of whom are unlikely to have any interest in the product or service offered. The economics of this are rather simple, it costs almost nothing to send these e-mails, and the cost of recieving it is born by the recipient (in internet connection charges).

On the other hand, I get certain advertising e-mail messages at work which it would be difficult to call spam. They are advertisements from companies with whom I have done business in the past and may do so in future. There is not much difference between these messages and the colourful printed brochures which I still get in the regular mail. The difference between these e-mails and true spam, is that spam is sent out at random, while non-spam messages are sent to people with whom a business relationship already exists. What BJS Power sent out was pure spam.

If I were in the electrical utility business in New Zealand, it is unlikely that this spam from BJS Power would have made me want to do business with them. I would have to question the ethics of anyone who sells their services in a way which is indistinguishable from the people offering anatomical enlargements or subscription pornography.

--

************************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
************************
 
L

Lynn at Alist

Alex Pavloff wrote: <clip>
> I understand the need to market your products -- but I'm curious what the
> marketing gurus think is are the "rules of conduct" when it comes to
> marketing through email. Any thoughts?

Unfortunately, "spam gurus" report a few hundred $$ responses for every million SPAMs sent out, so it pays. Spend $99 and create a few thousand $$ in income. So they DO NOT care that you won't buy from them - you won't have boughten from them even if they didn't SPAM you as you'd never heard of them before. They have lost nothing in this deal.

There are many groups working near full time on defining rules of conduct - such http://www.cauce.org/ . Unfortunately such rules mean nothing to most SPAMers who don't care. Kind of like the NRA's "if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" argument - only repectable people who aren't SPAMers care about rules of conduct.

I get about 100-150 SPAM emails a day in all the various email accounts (including [email protected] [email protected] etc) & use a Spam filter app to prescreen my inbox, so I get to see all the ways spamers adapt to spam filters & bypass them.

Personally (& unfortunately) the only solution that will likely emerge is an email system in a few years that removes anonynous behavior. In other words to send me email, you'll have to personally "register" with some central big-brother server that strictly controls my email inbox - a form of strong authentication, such as you need to know a password from me to send me email. I don't like the sound of that any more than any of you will, but I don't see any other solution. Even if every email I received cost senders 1 or 2 cents, think of all the paper junk mail you get at home from people paying the post office 3-6 cents a piece!

Best regards

Lynn August Linse, [email protected] IA Firmware Specialist, Digi Int'l (www.digi.com)
 
C
I respectfully submit that whether or not they are spamming, the spoofing of mail headers with hundreds of innocent parties involved is far more likely to be the manifestation of the "Outlook virus of the week" than their inept marketing. The headers I have examined look very much like past Outlook viruses. The difference in this case is in the payload. I would examine these messages very carefully for pathogens added in or on to the massage. I too have had to patiently explain the it is most unlikely that any bona fide message from me would originate from anything but Linux/Mozilla, after several "experts" accused me of mail bombing them. This closely resembles a virus, but as such things flow to dev/null after saving the header, I haven't had a look at the payload. Someone may wish to analyze the "spam" and report back. I'll bet there's an exploit tied in someplace.

Regards

cww
 
J

Jeffrey Eggenberger

I never buy anything sent to my email address without my permission, I also never buy anything from a phone call telemarketer.

Jeff.
 
As I understand it, the e-mail Alex received went beyond annoying spam and put his e-mail address in the header of other messages send by the same spammer. It would be pointless to take action against someone for just making you hit the delete key. But when a spammer makes it look like you are the source of this to others, maybe even your own customers, that's something else.

jk
 
R

Ralph Mackiewicz

> I had the same thing, through the same company, and the e-mail
> appeared to come from my address. On contacting them, they explained
> that there had been a 'break in' to their systems and that the message
> had been sent in error. Not sure if I believe that, but I've let the
> matter drop for the moment. If it is spam originating from the company
> involved, it would be tantamount to fraudulent use of a trademark and
> company name, so does strike me as rather serious.

They seriously told you that? They must have some of the most insecure systems on the planet because I have gotten many messages from that crew over a large span of time. I don't recall whether or not the headers were faked like the last message I got from them because I deleted all the others without ever looking at them. I only examined the message because someone thought that I had sent it when it had my email address as the reply-to. I wanted to ensure that someone hadn't broken into our mail server to send this spam out. Fortunately, the headers were faked. As a receiver of their messages I can tell you that they are indeed spammers because I have never asked for their email.

Regards,
Ralph Mackiewicz
SISCO, Inc.
 
A
Thanks for all the responses, which pretty much confirmed what I thought. Now for another question. My company has email newsletters and we send these newsletters to the sales guys at all of our distributors. These are people that have our equipment on their line cards.

Now, we're not selling enlargment techniques here -- a sample newsletter is a "Look how easy it is to plug Eason Technology stuff into XYZ Foobar stuff!" with a short app example.

However, every now and then a sales guy at one of our distributors will call this spam. Quite frankly, in this case, where the guy is selling our product working for a company that has signed a distribution agreement with us, I don't think this is spam even if the guy never personally opted-in to this list.

What are everyone else's thoughts on this?

Alex Pavloff - [email protected] Eason Technology -- www.eason.com
 
R

Ralph Mackiewicz

> Unfortunately, "spam gurus" report a few hundred $$ responses for
> every million SPAMs sent out, so it pays. Spend $99 and create a few
> thousand $$ in income. So they DO NOT care that you won't buy from
> them

True, but we aren't talking about the work at home scams or p*rn sites here. BJS sells SCADA systems for electric utilities and they somehow think that they will make some sales by sending spam with spoofed headers that point back to the spammed (the prospect in this case). I'm no fan of spamming but most of them are a lot smarter than that.

> I get about 100-150 SPAM emails a day in all the various email
> accounts (including [email protected] [email protected] etc) & use a Spam filter app to
> prescreen my inbox, so I get to see all the ways spamers adapt to spam
> filters & bypass them.
...snip...snip...

> Even if every email I received cost senders 1 or 2 cents, think of
> all the paper junk mail you get at home from people paying the post
> office 3-6 cents a piece!

I don't know about you, but I don't get anywhere near 100-150 pieces of junk mail in my postal mailbox. You must have one heck of a mail box in front of your house!! On any given day I get a small handful of perhaps 5 or so pieces of direct mail. Most of it comes from businesses that are in the local area or companies that I have ordered something from in the past. And much of it is now aggregated into a single envelope by direct mail companies. I don't ever recall getting a unsolicited offer for p*rn*graphy (that might be illegal) or offers to earn money for surfing the internet via snail mail.

IMHO 1 or 2 cents per email would nearly eliminate spam. But, it is impractical to do and it would also reduce the effectivenss of the medium so I am not really satisfied with that as a solution. Again, IMHO, strong authentication that is built into e-mail servers/readers and made to work transparently (just like web site certificates do now) would do it and wouldn't require any big brother. It does require non-anonymous email though. Even a legislated bounty payable to individual plaintiffs who can sue spammers for sending emails with fraudalent headers or content would cut it way down (or just push it overseas).

In response to the use of spam to market automation products I think that this is not an effective marketing tool even if it is essentially free. There are ways to use email and the internet for marketing purposes effectively, such as the techniques that Walt discusses in his paper. Unlike the BJS mailings, these are not spam though.

Regards, Ralph Mackiewicz SISCO, Inc.
 
B
Strangely enough, as a "local", I haven't seen any of these.

I have had dealings with a company called BJS who do work on SCADA systems - I'll make some enquiries via my contacts and see if I can track down if in fact these were "legitimate?" postings from the firm in question.

Bruce.
 
It isn't spam. The sales guy has a reason to want to read it. I'd take his complaint up with his boss and find out how I had failed to communicate a desire to the sales guy to learn all about my stuff. (And that's the way I'd put it, too).

Walt Boyes

---------------------
Spitzer and Boyes LLC
"consulting from the engineer
to the distribution channel"
21118 SE 278th Place
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Ph. 425-432-8262
Fx. 253-981-0285
[email protected]
www.spitzerandboyes.com
--------------------------
 
D

Donald Pittendrigh

HI All

Publish the information you wish to share on your website and invite your clients to visit and get up to date. That way you cannot be guilty of pushing information. My web site is one of the most neglected parts of my professional life at the moment, but there are a couple of things I use it for, I do collaborate with my clients on projects I am working on, and to this effect I have a lot of "hidden" files which they can log into if they have the directory address. Secondly I run a bit of a news page and when I become aware of new developments that could be of interest to my clients, I do a simple page describing the event and a link to more details. Take a look if you wish at www.iasicc.co.za where you will find a typical frontpage news page where I store what I am talking about. I have never been had up for spamming.

Cheers
Donald Pittendrigh
 
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