Spam has evolved. With it, the definition of what qualifies as spam has changed.
Some of it is theoretically justified as "the cost of doing business" like when a company feels like they can include you on their mailing list because you are a customer. Some of it is not, like the event spam you see in some of the calendar entries on patch.com.
While spam can be broadly defined as an unwanted or unsolicited message, does this rule out broadcast advertising or billboards? The line typically attributed to justice Potter Stewart regarding pornography "[I can't tell you what it is, but] I'll know it when I see it." seems to logically apply.
As our relationship to content and the media changes, what's acceptable in terms of brokering for attention will change. Wherever there is human communication, there is a chance for spam. We call it different things - here it's direct mail, there it's advertising, over there it's a commercial. All of it represents an attempt to capture your attention and, by extension, your wallet.
So what's a business owner to do?
The only viable insurance against spam and potentially damaging relationships with your future and existing clients is to cultivate great relationships from the very beginning. Service first marketing is a great way to build credibility and add value first with a focus on sales second.
Service first marketing is marketing that helps the consumer make a better decision or evaluate a problem more effectively than they currently do. You'll see it all over the web in the form of articles that sound like "Top 5 Showstopping Fashion Blunders" or "Don't get an accountant before checking this out."
This kind of advice, while often thinly veiled, can help a consumer determine an appropriate course of action to solve a problem. Big companies have understood this for a long time and published "white papers" to highlight a particular issue, capability, or solution to a problem. But even the most thinly veiled sales letter speaks to the reality that serving people first makes something "less spam and more ham."
Less spam means less time wasted trying to separate valueable communications from blind sales materials. Help your customers and your community by offering soemthing of value - a real relationship, not a non-event posting on the community calendar or your "buy my stuff" email campaign to complete strangers.