Email marketing may have been around for a while but it is still the most effective way to keep your network engaged. But, if you’re not doing it right, you could be doing it illegally.
Of course, there are negative consequences to not following the rules, not least of which is the fact hat you could jeopardize your relationship with your client base. Let’s take a look at the laws that govern email marketing, why you should comply and what changes you can implement to improve the results of your campaigns.
Understanding The Laws
The CAN Spam Act was established in 2003, and according to FTC.gov,
Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites.
It is quite clear about what is legal and what is not. It is really important to know what is not legal as it can mean up to $16,000 in fines if you get it wrong. That could make it your most expensive email campaign ever- so it is in your best interests to operate within the parameters of the law.
If you are communicating with people in other countries it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the laws pertaining to those countries as well.
It is illegal in terms of the CAN Spam Act to buy and sell databases. You are allowed to rent them, but it is not recommended. If you find yourself asking why then it’s possible you have not done enough email marketing yet.
If you have done any email marketing you probably would have realized by now that your chances of making a sale are only viable when your database is familiar with your brand. An organic database gives you a better chance of making sales than cold calling via email.
Your Online Identity
The email’s header information, email address and from name must all be accurate and true. Lying about this information goes against every principle of effective branding and should be avoided.
It is also worth thinking about what would serve your company best when you send out. Do the majority of your contacts know a certain person by name? Would your company name be more likely to get more attention? If you aren’t sure, try experimenting and see where you get the best results.
Not Being Honest With Subject Lines
It is important that your subject line is accurate and consistent with the actual content of your email. Not only is it misleading, it is also illegal in terms of the CAN Spam Act.
And subject lines are really important, if you consider that this is what can drive people to open your email- or be the factor that causes them to ignore it. So, how can you craft more effective subject lines that get your emails opened?
The biggest mistake most companies make is writing subject lines that are far too long and aren’t optimized for mobile, says Kipp Bodnar, a VP at marketing software platform HubSpot. A typical inbox reveals about 60 characters of an email’s subject line, while a mobile phone shows just 25 to 30 characters. He recommends getting right to the point in about six to eight words.
Including Your Postal Address On Your Communication
It is also written into law that all emails should include the sender’s postal address. Most companies place this information in the footer area of the email template, but the placement is not important. You just have to make sure that it can be found relatively easily.
Give Your Recipients The Option Of Opting Out
An opt out or unsubscribe function is essential because it gives your recipients the option of not receiving your updates if they do not find them useful. And again, if you look at how effective the “right” database can be, you’re wasting your time locking in people who aren’t going to buy from you at some point.
HubSpot reminds us about the courtesies required when it comes to the unsubscribe function and what you are mandated to do:
If a request is received, the advertiser is required to honor it within 10 business days. Period. However, even though you get a 10-way window of time, you really need to have a system that automatically and instantly processes the unsubscribe request. With all the email marketing software options we have today, there is no excuse to not have an instant, automated unsubscribe mechanism.
Using Lists For Cross Marketing Purposes
What about a scenario where you have a list of opt-in clients who want to receive your blog posts – are you allowed to send through your latest specials and news? Well technically, this kind of cross-marketing is actually allowed but it is not best practice and not in your best interests. Stick to giving your readers and subscribers exactly what they ask to receive.
Simplicity And Focus
Ultimately, the most effective emails are simple and targeted. Your biggest chances of making a sale occur when you have a target prospect, a clear line of communication and you take the window to communicate with them.
So why go to all this trouble in the first place? What are the benefits of doing your email marketing by the rules?
Well, if you have a clearly marked and labeled email that tells your reader who you are, why you are submitting information and what they can expect from you, you can already start looking forward to better open and response rates. If you stick to the rules about database management and honor people’s requests you will start building an organic following that has an actual, active interest in what you do.
By following the rules and laws your business is also not likely to get fined, sued or blacklisted for sending unwanted information or spam. Ultimately, you can look forward to a better brand reputation and perception, as well as more targeted pitches to customers who have an interest in what you are selling. Email marketing requires responsibility and discipline because once you over-step those boundaries it is very difficult to get back to your former position.