It’s everyone’s favorite application. Since its introduction, it has revolutionized the way we communicate, both personally and professionally. It has had a major impact on how companies market themselves, communicate with vendors, send out press releases, rally employees and alert clients to their latest and greatest promotion. The ease, low-cost and speed of e-mail in marketing is the biggest reason why our inboxes are overflowing with spam.
In response to the ubiquitous outcry, “I hate spam,” governments have crafted new regulations surrounding the use of e-mail; and if you are one of the millions of companies using it for marketing, then it’s important that you familiarize yourself with these laws. But the danger doesn’t stop there…
Even if you don’t get caught by the feds for violating the rules of e-mail usage, you can still end up on a blacklist with the major ISPs such as Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN. Once you get blacklisted, you are considered guilty until proven innocent, and ALL the e-mail you send won’t get through, even to people who want to receive it—a consequence that could end up hurting your business more than a fine.
So what are the basic guidelines of e-mail marketing?
First and foremost, make sure you are only sending e-mail campaigns to people who have solicited (requested) to be on your distribution list. This is called “opting-in” or subscribing, and e-mails sent to these folks are considered “solicited e-mail.” You are perfectly within your rights to send them messages; but if you got their e-mail address by any other means and they did NOT specifically request to be on your list, that’s considered “unsolicited e-mail” or spam. Sending promotional e-mails to people who have not requested it is not only illegal, but annoying…so don’t do it!
Next, make sure you provide directions on how a person can remove themselves from your distribution list in EVERY e-mail. The best place to put this information is at the very bottom of your message. You should also include your full company name and contact information at the bottom so no one can blame you for cloaking your identity—another legal “no-no” of e-mail marketing.
Finally, when sending e-mail, we recommend using a service such as ConstantContact. These web-based applications will help you manage your e-mail distribution list with automatic opt-out and opt-in tools and will keep your e-mail server off an ISP’s blacklist.
Naturally, you want to make sure the information you are sending is interesting and relevant. No one wants more junk filling up their inbox so the better you are at marketing, the better your results will be. E-mail is not a magic marketing bullet that will solve all your marketing problems, but used correctly, it can certainly help you reach more customers and build stronger relationships with the people you already do business with.