I spend a lot of time
talking about the right ways to use technology.
But there are wrong ways to use technology as well. Trust me, these
three scenarios outlined below are a lot more common than you think.
You want to get an edge on your competition? Avoid trying these and
other disingenuous methods. They are more likely to lead to public
embarrassment for you and your company, lawsuits, or both.
1. Sending fake e-mail to the competitor's best customer.
First, you cleverly spoof the return address by either changing the
name in the e-mail's "From" line or creating a fictitious e-mail
You know who your competitor's best customer is; she doesn't do
business with you. She probably would if she knew more about your
competitor. Point out that he has lousy service. His products stink
and his prices are high.
You can't put your name on this so you sign it, "A concerned
businessperson." And as a token of your concern, you recommend your
own company by name. You speak highly of your products and your
sterling service. You mention that your prices are more than
When the customer calls and wants to know who sent the e-mail, you
tell her you don't know. But you tell her you're not surprised; you
get this all the time.
Will this work? Of course not. In the best-case scenario, the
customer deletes the e-mail. But maybe she has her system
administrator look into it. Odds are, the system administrator knows
a lot more than you. He's going to use the e-mail's header
information, which you didn't even know about, to trace it. This
stuff is going to come back to your door. You can bet you'll never
get that business.
Worse, the customer might turn the whole thing over to your
competitor. This only confirms his suspicions about you. Maybe he'll
tell his other customers about the e-mail. You won't be getting
their business, either. And maybe he'll sue you. Won't that be great
2. Spreading the word on message boards.
All right, forget the e-mail. You have a better idea. Every industry
has its message boards. Employees gripe. Bosses are disparaged.
Company secrets are divulged.
Practically everybody's anonymous on message boards. Who knows who
"Shark" is, for instance. You certainly don't. So all you need is a
clever nickname, like "Mr. Integrity."
Industry people know who your competitor is. And you know that his
customers — who are rightfully yours — read the boards.