It's a common paradox we are often tasked with. Stop spam coming in but help me send spam (marketing email).
That's how we see it but it is rarely how businesses see it. So here's the challenge, many businesses want to send their customers regular email updates. These emails may be about a new product, an event or even some exciting giveaway. However, whichever way it is packaged the receivers often consider this to be spam.
The sender doesn't consider it spam though. They will perceive this to be an important part of keeping in touch with their customers and, ultimately, generating more business.
So how do you ensure that you achieve your goal of sending marketing emails without becoming a spammer?
Change your assumption
Everyone assumes that as the person they're emailing is a customer no further law applies. This is only true in respect of an individual email such as a reply to an inquiry. This does not apply to mass marketing (unsolicited) email. As soon as a bulk email campaign is sent it must comply with EU, UK and, possibly, US laws. The old phrase 'They're my customers anyway' doesn't offer any legal protection from someone bringing a claim against you for misusing their email address.
The most important step is to read up on the law. The Information Commissioners Office has everything you need to know about the law and the compliance requirements. It's very important to read this document before sending mass email because failing to comply with any part of it could land you with a hefty fine.
Once you've read the ICO document you will see that telling customers how they ended up on this list and offering them an unsubscribe link is one of the most important aspects of mass mailing. Your customers must have a reliable method of unsubscribing and it must be functional.
Email Address Privacy
One of the biggest email marketing mistakes is using Outlook to send an email with all the email addresses in the 'to' field or in the 'cc'/'bcc' fields. Not only does this seriously breach privacy laws but many email programs will automatically mark this as spam.
Worse still, your email server may get blacklisted as a source of spam. If you have an on-premise email server this could make sending emails a real nightmare for your entire business, no server wants to receive mail from a blacklisted server. If you use a managed email server like Office 365, Hotmail or Gmail it will probably result in your account being suspended and you pleading your case to their arbitrators as to why you should ever be allowed back.
Balancing how often to stay in touch with your customers versus annoying them is a fine art. Most end users will accept a monthly email from suppliers unless it is a service they are explicitly subscribed to (like hobby forums for example). Sending too many emails will likely have the user unsubscribe or report your email as spam.
As well as frequency of sending, many mail servers check for the volume of sending. Sending, say, 2,000 emails in 1 minute is sure to get you blacklisted.
If all this sounds like a lot of work you're probably right. Luckily there are several very useful Managed Email Marketing Services available like MailChimp and Constant Contact. These services manage the entire process of sending for you. They ensure that the quantity of emails sent per minute are fair, that you comply with all legislation and that you have a proper unsubscribe system.
In addition they offer some fantastic tracking services such as who opened the emails, when, where and how many times.
They also offer the ability to download a list of failed email addresses or email accounts that unsubscribed from your list so you can keep your databases fully up to date.
With all that said, it is of course our advice to use a managed marketing service. They protect you from fines, legal action and keep your customers happy at the same time. What's not to like?
So, If you're thinking of sending a mass email I hope you've found this article useful. If you need help or advice, please let us know as we would be delighted to help you with your next email marketing project.