I love meeting new people and learning about their businesses. Networking events can be rich with potential customers, open doors and exciting opportunities. Sometimes you can’t beat swapping knowledge and business cards over a Malted Milk biscuit … and many events allow you to meet face to face with a quantity of interesting people it might take you months to visit individually.
But one thing that winds me up about networking events? When people scrape the list of delegates afterwards and use it to send unsolicited marketing emails.
Don’t get me wrong. I welcome little “hello” emails, the “sorry I didn’t get to speak to you, but I notice you supply …” sort-of missives, where the sender has taken the trouble to personalise their message. These people are often good networkers: the ones not hellbent on making a quick sale, but interested in building mutually beneficial relationships. That’s great.
But I dislike blanket, send-all emails that show no thought or imagination. Sometimes they show no respect for the recipient, either. I once found several megabytes of brochure weighing down my inbox, from a company that makes building components. I doubt they would’ve been willing to spend money on sending literature to a business like mine, which has no need for drainage systems, but just because it cost nothing didn’t mean it was a good idea. In fact, it could have cost them a lot more: damaged credibility.
Am I being harsh? Marketing is difficult, and we are trading in difficult times. These are small businesses and start-ups, who are often told by business advisers to get themselves ‘out there’ as much as they can. So maybe they should be forgiven for jumping on a current, juicy list of people with which they have something in common (the event) and using it to showcase their business.
But I do think people should get more creative and personal in their approach - or hire someone who can be creative and personal for them.
These cheeky delegate-list spammers are not breaking the law. (There are laws surrounding email marketing, but generally they protect consumers, not businesses.) But I don’t think it’s good practice.
What do you think?