Constant Contact has long been an advocate for permission-based marketing. We know that it is the best route to developing the long-lasting customer relationships that small businesses work so hard to achieve —the relationships that can drive customer engagement, and encourage repeat sales and valuable word-of-mouth for your business.
Over the summer, this topic was brought to the fore in the world of email marketing, as Canada began enforcing a new Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).The legislation requires all those that market to Canada with commercial electronic messages (email, some forms of social media, etc.) regardless of where in the world they are located, to adhere to the some of the strictest anti-spam regulations in the world or risk serious penalties: up to $1 million for individuals and up to $10 million for businesses. (Note: Visit Constant Contact’s CASL Resource Center if you’d like to learn more.)
Even if CASL doesn’t affect your business, it serves as an essential reminder of how important it is to get your customers’ permission before adding them to your email marketing list. Along with helping you develop stronger ties to your customers, permission-based email has better open rates, less spam reports, and is generally more effective.
Following are 10 tips from Constant Contact to help ensure you are marketing with permission:
1. Collect email addresses the right way
If you’re adding a new contact to your email list, it’s important that you have consent, either implied or express. Implied consent is inferred based on actions, such as having an existing business relationship (making a purchase or donation, for example). In order to maintain implied consent to comply with CASL a contact must take a business action with you at least once every two years. Under CAN-Spam there is no need to maintain implied consent, it is assumed until the receiver indicates they no longer wish to receive messages. Express consent is obtained when you explicitly ask your potential contacts for permission to send them email, and they agree. Once you obtain express consent, it is good forever or until someone opts out.
When possible we recommend obtaining express consent.
2. Be straightforward at the point of sign up
When asking people to join your list, be straightforward about what type of content you plan to send. Special offers, promotions, and exclusive content are great incentive for people to join your list but if you don’t follow-through, you could lose them as a reader and possibly as a customer.
3. Give people the option to opt-out
Permission can be given, and it can be taken away. It is very important that every email you send has the option for the recipient to unsubscribe or “opt-out.” Interests may change over time and communications may no longer be valuable to a given subscriber.
4. Add a permission reminder to your emails
Whether they are a valued customer, a prospect who expressed interest or a client you want to keep in touch with — adding a permission reminder will add credibility and help provide context for your email.
5. Respect your audience’s privacy
6. Keep your contacts up-to-date
People change email service providers, jobs and email addresses at random. Often, you’ll be the last to know. Ask for updated information and give subscribers an easy way to change their email address. This will ensure that your communications continue to be received if, and when, they make a change.
7. Don’t overwhelm your audience
Respect the privilege of communicating with your customers and prospects by taking care not to communicate too often. Think carefully and plan how many, and what kind of communications you send to your subscribers.
8. Be diligent
Some subscribers will reply to an email to unsubscribe instead of using the automatic unsubscribe link. Monitor your inbox for unsubscribes, and complaints, then make sure you remove unsubscribe addresses right away and take action on any grievances.
9. Watch your reports
There’s a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. Always pay attention to your unsubscribe rate — if you are losing more than 0.5% of your subscribers per month, you need to make adjustments. Opens and click-throughs can also indicate where you might be missing the mark.
10. Never buy or rent a list
Permission is not transferable. Today, subscribers want to receive email from those companies they have subscribed to, not an unknown third party. Don’t be fooled by the false promise of ready-to-buy lists.
About the Author: Gina Watkins is a leading expert on e-marketing for small business – and has a real passion for helping businesses to succeed. Her ongoing series of dynamic lectures are filled with real-world examples, humor and results-driven wisdom garnered from more than two decades of sales, business development and marketing experience. In addition to owning her own business, she is an award-winning direct marketer, has been featured on WUSA Channel 9’s Mind Over Money show, Dr. Gayle Carson’s Women In Business radio show, Morgan State’s Briefcase Radio program, and in numerous other media. In her role as Constant Contact Regional Development Director, she’s presented to more than ten thousand seminar attendees about the keys to success with easy, affordable, highly effective technology tools that grow trusted business relationships.