Although sometimes list washing, waterfalling, and snowshoeing are done with the best of intentions, they are the black-hatting practices of lead gen email marketing tactics. Are you unwittingly spamming?

Got Spam? I do. Today’s collection includes one email informing me I might qualify for a new mattress (my current mattress is a year old). Another one is offering me dental implants (I have only had three cavities in my entire life and hope that never changes <knock on wood>). I can save big on a brand of car that I don’t want. I can STILL save on dental implants. (Beginning to think I need to see the dentist this week.)

What is spam?

The common definition of spam is “any commercial email that is transmitted without the permission of the intended recipient.”

Spamhaus defines spam as “An electronic message is “spam” if (A) the recipient’s personal identity and context are irrelevant because the message is equally applicable to many other potential recipients; AND (B) the recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent.”

If the email is unsolicited AND sent in bulk, it is spam. If the email is sent to a large number of people indiscriminately, it is spam. If you have a list of individual emails that did not consent to receive your content and you send that entire list an email or series of emails, it is spam. If you send an email out to a list that subscribed/consented for one set of content from your organization but not another and you add them to a list and send them emails they did not consent to receive, it is spam.

Spam is irritating.

It’s about trust

Why would anyone think irritating someone would cause someone to want to trust you? I have seen some email campaigns use the “type remove in the subject line” method of unsubscribing. Let’s get to the real issue: Why should anyone have to ask to be removed from something they never consented to be part of?

It’s about resources

Spam emails have the lowest open rates, highest complaint rates, highest unsubscribe rates, lowest engagement rates, and overall lower productivity of everyone involved. As a marketer, I have yet to see a deal close from a spam email.

It’s about integrity

Spam is illegal. It is bad business. It establishes a lack of trust. It interferes with legitimate business communication. Spam complaints damage your sender reputation.

Did you know an unsubscribe has no effect on your sender score, but one spam complaint is permanent? If your score gets too low, your work will end up in a spam filter even if the intended recipient opted-in.


  • Listwashing: The removal of nonproductive addresses from email lists
  • Snowshoeing: the use of multiple domains to send emails
  • Waterfalling: using multiple ISPs to run the same illicit list to clean bounces, complaints with the goal of increasing deliverability.

Before you send that email, did you have to list wash, waterfall, or snowshoe? If so, you are definitely a spammer.

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