It seems ridiculous that such an obvious statement needs to be made, but I’ve written about this before – that it’s poor business etiquette to spam someone you’ve met networking.
Handing over my business card when I first meet a new contact is standard business practice and it appears that adding my email address to an email list has become part of that practice, and I want to say is it not ok.
At best, it’s a lazy way to keep in touch, and at worst it is egotistical self-interest.
How to make sure you are not spamming your business contacts
Permission aside, as there will be some who disagree with me at this fundamental level, there are some questions and issues that you may wish to consider:
Are you using this method as a way to stay in touch?
This is the most common justification that I hear and it is a reason that is at odds with effective networking which comes from genuinely building relationships. To be effective requires being tuned in to the other person and his or her purpose for networking, or for wanting to stay connected with you. A person who uses their newsletter (aka email list) to stay in contact is not a person who is tuned in or wants to tune in, because this person pushes information to the other person, instead of seeking it.
Is it appropriate to have this person on your list?
Consider the type of information you send to your list. There are generally three kinds:
- Generic – the this is what I have been up to type email (Category 1)
- Marketing / Sales-y (Category 2)
- Generous, value-loaded information (Category 3)
If your information falls into Category 1, ask yourself why your networking contact would want to know what you’ve been up to. Sometimes, it is genuinely relevant, but is this the best way to disseminate the information? If you miss the mark, you come across as self-absorbed and uninterested. A newsletter will, by its nature, be generic since it has a mass audience. It adds to email “noise” and will most likely be ignored.
If however, you produce valuable and useful information, you might be excused – almost. If you deliver category 3 information to your list, then you are doing some good things with your digital communication. By putting someone on your list without permission, you risk undoing some of this ‘good’ and turning it into a ‘hit and miss’ communication, because like Category 1, there’s still the problem of ‘mass audience’ and value to someone is not necessarily value to everyone.
Category 2? Need I even elaborate? This is like meeting someone at a party and then having them turn up at your doorstep uninvited trying to sell a networking marketing scheme.
Just get their permission!
It’s simple, just get their permission. Send a follow-up email , reminding them how you met. At a big event, with many cards exchanged, they may not even remember you! Add some thought into this email, personalise it, refer to something relevant or connected to what you spoke of at the meeting. Ask if it would be ok to include them on your list because……. you provide MOSTLY category 3 information. If they respond with a yes, then and only then, add them to your list.
Then segment your list
List segmentation is a whole other topic and beyond the scope of this post, but in simplistic terms, it means sorting the networking contacts who are on your list into groups so that you can send information relevant to them, rather than pushing generic information. Yes, it’s a lot more work, which is why I use the reference ‘lazy way to keep in touch’ earlier in the post. Alternatively, find some other way to stay in touch!
Why do you have a list? To sell? To build a community? To warm your leads? If you have multiple answers, each answer requires a different approach. If everyone is on the same list (i.e. unsegmented), you might as well have a garage sale.