Fasthosts Internet, a Web hosting provider, has warned U.K. businesses not to spam their customers with unsolicited newsletters and marketing emails.
In the past year, the company has seen an 88 percent rise in the number of spam reports it has received, most commonly where consumers have reported business customers for allegedly sending spam to them. The data lends weight to the theory that the challenging economy and increasingly competitive online marketplace have perhaps led more small firms to cut corners with their email communication. The company recommends that small companies take necessary steps to ensure that emails are only sent to the right recipients who have opted-in to receive them.
As more U.K. firms are adopting email marketing as a valuable sales and communication channel, it would appear that the problem of business-related spam is escalating. According to Fasthosts, from June 2010 to June 2011, the company has received 88 percent more reports from the public regarding genuine businesses that they believe have sent them unsolicited and unwanted emails. A proportion of cases required investigation and/or action by the provider, such as a warning or locking of the relevant email account. In most cases, Fasthosts needed only to provide best-practice email advice to the relevant business.
"In a tough economy, small businesses may be tempted to be more aggressive with the frequency of mailings, or begin to take for granted their right to email a contact base," said Stephen Holford, marketing director of Fasthosts Internet. "Every firm must respect the value that consumers place on their inbox, and take the proper measures to ensure they use email professionally and ethically."
According to Internet psychologist Graham Jones, unwanted email is a major issue that causes frustration, annoyance, and stress. "If a business emails people without paying proper attention to opt-in systems they can expect increased negativity from their customers and their prospects. And with the ease with which people can complain about companies on social networks, there is the obvious potential for reputational damage too," he warned.
"When people are asked to define spam they simply talk about emails they did not request, no matter who those messages come from," Jones continued. "Many businesses think they are merely doing 'email marketing' but their customers actually think they are spamming. There is a clear difference in thinking between many businesses and their customers, and that is bad for reputation and revenue."
While still rare, it is possible for businesses to become involved in the distribution of spam without even realizing. Problems can arise as a result of their email becoming compromised locally, commonly through a virus or Trojan on their hardware. It is vital that all businesses keep mailboxes secure and regularly update passwords to minimize the risk of exploitation of their domain or mail servers.
Holford added: "Whilst spam is not new, the damage that it can do to business reputation and customer loyalty should definitely be cause for thought. The more responsibility a company shows towards their use of email, the more credible and rewarding email marketing will become as a channel."