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E-mail is the main reason people “go online.” It offers a simple and direct method of communication, enabling you to conduct business and keep in touch with your friends and family. If you are like most people, you treasure your e-mail account. However, spammers see your e-mail account as something much different.
To a spammer, your e-mail account is a direct asset. Its worth is valued between 1 and 5 cents as is, but this quickly increases if a spammer knows your habits and can predict what interests you have or what products you like to buy; then, your e-mail account is worth up to 20 cents. Would you sell me your e-mail address for 20 cents? You’d probably say no to protect your e-mail privacy and reduce the amount of spam you receive. Often, however, it’s not a choice that people are allowed to make. Anyone who has your e-mail address would probably sell it to a spammer for 10 cents. If they refuse the sale many spammers are fully capable of hacking their way into most companies to steal your e-mail address and previous sales history. E-mail addresses have become another piece in the virtual economy of spam; they can be highly profitable for those who are able to obtain very large amounts of them. Even with each address fetching only 1 cent, a list of 20 million e-mails could bring up to $2,000.00 cash, and that’s the minimum price.
With an estimated 655 million people currently online, you stand to make between $500,000.00 to 3.2 million dollars selling e-mail addresses—an easy way to make money. The more information you supply per e-mail (in terms of buying history and interests), the higher its worth. From a spammer’s point of view, I would have no interest in sending you spam to buy a home loan if I know you are 16 and will not be buying a house for 20 years, as there’s likely no revenue to gain. However, if I know you are interested in buying a house, maybe because you subscribe to real estate e-mail newsletters and you live in the US, then I am highly interested in sending you spam about home loans. Targeted spam works great; a highly targeted spam list can produce a 20 to 30 percent buy rate. It comes down to supply and demand theory 101—sell a product to someone who specifically wants to buy that type of product.
|Notes from the Underground…|| |
Supply and Demand
If you are interested in trying this theory out for yourself, here is a little social experiment you can undertake.
Attend a conference, exposition, or general gathering of like-minded people. They have to all share one common element, whether they are painters, collectors, or car fanatics. Walk around with a pen and paper and talk to as many people as possible. Make sure you get the e-mail address of every person you talk to and write down any character traits you notice, such as things they enjoy, the types of products they use, and the types of products they buy. Tease the information out of them. Use this method to build your own customer database. Try to talk to approximately 100 people. Once the conference is over, sort through your list and group the people by their common likes: for example, painters who paint with oil and painters who paint with goulash. Try to make three groups or less.
Now find a product or service that offers you a percentage of any sales. Amazon.com is a great example; they will give you a percentage for any sale you refer to them. Find products that each group would be interested in (i.e., a book about painting with oils for the oil painters).
Now send each person in your group an e-mail. Address them by name and attempt to personalize it as much as possible; for example, say who you are and that you met them at the latest “Painters” conference. Tell them that you just bought a book on Amazon.com. Stress how great the book is and give them a link to the product. Then stress again how great the book was and suggest that they buy a copy. Do this for each group.
The results will surprise you. As any advertising or marketing representative in any industry will tell you, marketing to a targeted audience is an amazingly powerful method of selling a product.
Spam is not about sending as much e-mail as possible to as many people as possible. Spam is about sending as much e-mail as possible only to people who like or want a certain product. The real question is how do you find people who want to buy your product? That’s what this chapter covers; how your e-mail addresses are tracked, traded, bought, and sold, all without your knowledge.
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