Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Future of Spam?

Not enough people read this blog for me to have anything close to a spam problem, but I do occasionally get emails from people asking me to feature their sites or companies or nonprofits on the blog.

My tendency has been to send a quick reply to those emails, ask for more information, and engage only if the reply to my reply catches my attention. Something about one email that came in last Thursday, however, spurred me to respond a little differently.

The note came from the email address of Mark Hexamer, one of the founders of Swaptree, a site that lets you trade the books you've read and don't want to keep for books that other people have read and don't want to keep. It was a reminder that for every trade made on Swaptree on this coming Tuesday, they'll be donating a dollar to the Sierra Club. It asked me to spread the word.

What was remarkable to me about the email was that it wasn't well produced. It came from what seemed like a real email address (not an info@ or marketing@ or no-reply@ email). It didn't have files attached. It wasn't written on a fancy email template that only reveals its true glory after I click the display images below button on Gmail. And one paragraph was even a different font size than the rest. It felt real, human even.

It was clearly a cut and paste job, but the fact that it was an imperfect cut and paste job that spared me bells and whistles got me wondering.

I responded. After poking around Swaptree for a few minutes, I read the email again and sent a quick little rave back to Mark about minimalism, personalization, and PR cold calling in the blogosphere.

For me, in this particular case, minimalism worked, and, in order to work, it needed only a touch of personalization. It needed to have my name. It needed the words "A More Perfect Market." It needed to come from a human-looking email address. And it gained heaps of credibility for lacking slickness.

It's quite possible that I'm a totally unrepresentative marketing target. That has been known to be the case. But, who knows, maybe my weirdness has set me teetering out on the cutting edge somewhere, and maybe Swaptree is on to something big.

That email did, after all, lead me to mention Swaptree and its Earth Day promotion in this post.