Despite the fact that I have a very complete LinkedIn profile that in no way indicates I'd need his product, "Greg" thought I might be interested in purchasing one of the 22,600 boxes of industrial gloves he has available for sale, and sent me an InMail to that effect.
Um, thanks, Greg... but no thanks.
"Junk Mail" isn't new. Whether it's the flyers you don't want in your mailbox or the email you don't want in your inbox, there have always been -- and will likely always be -- companies who believe it's effective to "spray and pray".
Digital distribution has made things worse.
With physical mail, there's at least a cost for marketers who adopt this approach: they have to print the pieces and pay for physical distribution. Granted, sometimes the math on an untargeted mass distribution is still favorable: the reason you likely have numerous Real Estate Agent flyers in your mailbox each week is because they're trying to earn thousands of dollars in commissions on the sale of houses.* But for most businesses in most categories, it's more difficult to make the numbers on "spray and pray" work... which is why a smarter, more-targeted marketing approach generally earns a higher return on investment.
The problem with digital is that the monetary costs of distributing junk-mail online are negligible. Greg can send a million messages for next to nothing, and if he gets a few dozen sales from that blast, it's well-worth it for him to do so. It's a crappy way to do business, and even more so if you're trying to build a good long-term relationship with a customer base. But that's not what Greg is doing: he's trying to sell me a box of industrial gloves... and he almost certainly doesn't care less if I find his message intrusive and irrelevant.
The irony is that it has never been easier or less expensive to find the people who are most likely to be receptive to your offer. It takes some knowledge, effort, and money to accomplish this... but not much.
There's one important difference between "Junk Mail" and "Direct Mail".
"Junk Mail" has no value to you.
Don't be in the business of sending out junk.
* Think about it: if printing and sending out 1,000 flyers costs $200, and a single homeowner decides to list with an agent as a result of the flyer, that's very unimpressive 0.1% conversion... but the commission earned on that conversion could be in excess of $10,000, which represents an excellent return on the $200 investment.