Beware of Secondhand Spamming

Lately, much of the anti-spam movement seems focused on software that will filter out spam before it reaches you. It’s sort of a bulletproof jacket for your inbox. Will this approach really stop spam or just the rare, but possible, message from a friend with “Free Passes!” in the subject?

One of my favorite TV detectives says, “Follow the money,” whenever he is knee-deep in a crime. We’re all knee-deep in spam, and I think we need a similar approach in fighting it.

I kept four days worth of spam for an informal analysis, and it became clear to me that much of spam occurs because manufacturers, telcos, pharmaceuticals and others have reseller networks that are out of control. It’s the gray part of the sales department where orders mysteriously are churned out and managers are afraid to ask questions.

Besides the odd scam or two, spammers must sell something to make a buck. So what are they selling? Your product, Mr. Pharmaceutical Manufacturer, and yours Mr. Copier Maker. I’m talking name brands in at least 80 percent of the cases in my informal analysis.

Spam is up sharply thanks in part to businesses relying increasingly on outside resellers to combat a weak economy. Similarly, more resellers enter the market when unemployment is up. However, resellers aren’t in charge of protecting the corporate image of the many products they sell, and it shows.

The average reseller agreement has language that basically states the reseller can’t blame the company should anything go wrong. In other words, language that’s protective, not proactive. It’s time that all businesses that have reseller networks rewrite their reseller agreements and include their corporate privacy policy in it.

Include specific language regarding the use of e-mail or prohibit resellers from generating business from it altogether and save e-mail marketing for the experts at the corporate marketing level. If your resellers use other resellers, hold them accountable for the actions of those they subcontract to. Most importantly, enforce the agreement!

It didn’t take this detective long to follow the money that supports spam. It’s time for all reputable marketers to re-examine their reseller networks and turn off the money to spammers!

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