Is the Harvard Business Review Claiming You Can Spam Other Businesses?

The blog over at the Harvard Business Review  is jumping. A recent post by Ruth P. Stevens stirred up that old hornet’s nest of “opt-in” versus “opt-out” marketing email.

Here’s what she said: It’s OK to send unsolicited emails (newsletters and the like) to businesses with the expectation that they can opt out if they don’t like them. She said that businesses who follow the restrictive “opt-in” rule accepted as mandatory for consumer marketing are making a mistake.

Cue much uproar in the comments section of the website.

Here’s my take on it. Legislation around the world (such as the CAN-SPAM act in the United States) says that marketing communication must be opt-in. Anything else is spam.

All the reputable email service providers (the firms that do a great job sending emails on your behalf and helping those emails get delivered to your recipients) insist that your lists are opt-in. Anything else will get you banned.

Those two points alone would suggest that an “opt-out” policy for your B2B communications is a bad thing.

But it goes deeper than that: with any list of prospects or clients, it’s quality that counts – not just quantity. Your aim should be to build a list of people who want to hear from you, because they are people who will be most likely to buy from you.

An “opt-in”?policy ensures that you have this quality list. An “opt-out” policy merely makes sure you have a large list of indifferent (and maybe angry) people. And who wants that?