I regularly contact people I don’t know. I regularly cold pitch via email, text message or social media. But I make the distinction that this is not spam.
What is spam?
Merriam Webster defines spam as,
unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses.
A more technical definition by Spamhous.org :
The word “Spam” as applied to Email means “Unsolicited Bulk Email”.
Unsolicited means that the Recipient has not granted verifiable permission for the message to be sent. Bulk means that the message is sent as part of a larger collection of messages, all having substantively identical content. A message is Spam only if it is both Unsolicited and Bulk.
Going by both definitions, my approach is technically not spam because its not bulk mail. I contact people, individually, with ideas I would like to propose. People tend to use the term spam to refer to unsolicited mail but I feel that defines things too narrowly.
Whether at work, in social settings or with the relationships we have, we are all, at some point or other, bound to approach people with ideas, proposals, invitations (things where we initiate contact) or with recommendations, responses or comments (things where we respond to someone or something). The fact that it may be unsolicited is a given and cannot be a limiting factor to what we do.
In discussing respect for someone’s time, the reference to spam here is meant to indicate that you take the time to identify the idea, the person you are reaching and the manner in which to do, in some detail. And you want to do this with clarity so that :
- they are open to contact;
- they are willing to take the steps to read/listen/meet up and generally take it to the next level;
- they easily see and interpret accurately what it is that you are trying to achieve.
If you fail to take the time to do the above, then the opposite will happen :
- they delete the email without reading;
- they don’t respond to a request to connect;
- they ignore your requests, repeatedly;
- they meet up with you but do not really give you the time and space to discuss what you’ve planned to propose to them;
- they sideline the topic with something else instead;
- sometimes, they may even pitch you!
In the last few years, I have worked at ingraining this philosophy in my children :
Do it once, do it well.
And it’s an approach that works in your own personal sphere as well. Take the time to do a good job, for yourself and for others.
Do it because it speaks for you. Do it because if you do it well, you do not need to revise/tweak/re-do. Do it because you have pride in what you do and how you come across.
And so, if you respect other people’s time, you take the opportunity to find out who you are approaching, you plan your proposal, you make contact in an effective way and you follow up. It’s not a scatter gun approach and it’s certainly not spam.
This is part of a series of 20 posts on How I Ensure I Respect Your Time.