Email Marketing – How to Avoid Being Labeled a Spammer
Spam is a serious problem and one we all face on a day to day basis, It makes people cranky and these days people are all to quick to label legitimate email as spam.
And the problem is getting labeled a spammer will get your emails blocked, your websites blocked or shut down, your domain name confiscated (if you use certain domain registration companies) and a request to appear in front of a judge to explain yourself.
To avoid being falsely accused we need to go over and above the legal requirements and do a few more things.
Note: I am not a lawyer and you should consult with a local lawyer or qualified professional to ensure that your email marketing campaigns within the boundaries of local laws.
Statistics show that people often believe that email that was once requested but no longer wanted is now considered Spam? And those people are the ones that could effectively shut down our email campaigns with their complaints.
So to solve this problem we need to look at some "Happy Customer" anti-spam policies that we should instigate:
Always use CanSpam compliant EM software / services: By doing so we ensure that we always have a valid un-subscribe link at the bottom of every email. When a customer does tire of our campaigns they can then simply opt-out via the link, rather than sending off a complaint email. People will tend to do whatever is easiest so always make it simple for them.
Also our CanSpam compliant software will have a signature section that we can use to remind the customer where they signed up. Many times people forget that they even signed up to our email list so it's always good to remind them.
Make sure that people want to be on your list: The quickest way to get spam complaints it to take the email address off a business card and add it to your list. Just because someone gives you their card does not mean that they want to get marketing messages from you.
This applies especially to those "Drop your business card in the fishbowl to win a free meal" competitions you see in restaurants everywhere. If you did want to sign people up this way you should have word in BIG LETTERS next to the competition set-up to say "By dropping your card in this box you give us permission to send you email promotions." Even so I would hesitate to do that as it's very much a gray area.
Think of it this way. A representative from the local employers office shows up at your door with a list of people who have complained that you are spamming them. Could you provide proof positive that everyone on your list definitely opted in to your list? And could you prove this in court?
This does not mean you should never ever enter people into your list. It simply means that we should always ensure that we have full permission and the customer understands this.
If you have customers coming into your office frequently you can tell them that "We are trying to reduce our paper mailing costs and we have a competition to win $ 500 if you sign up for email notifications." You then get them to sign a form and add their email address under words that says "I am agreeing to receive regular marketing emails and I understand I can unsubscribe at any time."
Keep the list of sign-ups somewhere safe.
Never, Ever use a list you have bought, borrowed or rented: This comes down again to making sure the customer wants to be on your list. Joint opt-in lists can be just as dangerous too. Remember if a customer does not know where he signed up then he is very likely to report you as a spammer.
Use a double opt-in method when you use an online sign-up form: Again this comes down to not confusing the customer into thinking that someone else must have signed up for them. This is also useful if we ever get reports of spam complaints from our web hosts. We can point to our double opt-in system and say that's the only way we sign people up.
The double opt-in system requires people to enter their email address and then open up their email and click on a confirmation link. This is the double opt-in. Whilst doing this most software will keep a record of the time, date and IP address from when the customer confirmed their details.
Always Send A Welcome Email: Sending out a welcome email shortly after a customer has signed up confirmations to the customer that everything went through okay. You should also use this email to thank the customer for their interest in your product (note: they are interested in your product, not being on your list).
You can tell the customer roughly how often they should expect to hear from you and also tell them to "whitelist" your email address, or add it to their address book so that the future emails do not end up in a Junk folder. White listing is especially important when the subscriber uses a challenge / arrest system. By white listing or adding our email to a list of allowed emails then we can bypass this type of spam filter system.
Contact Info: We already saw that having your business name and address in the email is a legal requirement but why not go a little bit further and put all your contact details in here too.
If a customer needs to contact you then we want to make it as simple as possible. If you have a telephone number or a few different email addresses sometimes consider adding them. The more ways the customer can contact you, the less likely they are to need to complain to anyone else.
Set Up A Abuse Email Address : One of the things many customers will do when they receive an email they think is Spam is try to report you. The simplest way is to forward your email to whoever they think can deal with it for them. In many cases if they can not find an email people will try sending an abuse email.
All big email companies have an email address for reporting spam. This is usually something like <a href="mailto:[email protected]"> [email protected] </a> It's there before a good idea to set up your own abuse email address and simply forward it to your regular email account . You would do this just in case people try to send you an abuse email. It's better to be able to receive the email and deal with it than for it to bounce back. If it bounces to the sender then theirs next step may be to report you somewhere else.
If you do receive email complaints ensure that you deal with them as fast as possible. Remove the email address from your list and send a quick email like this:
"Dear Sir / Madam,
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. You can be assured that we have a very strict anti-spam policy and we take emails such as yours very seriously.
We have removed you from our mailing lists and you will be assured that you will receive no more emails from us.
If you'd like to sign up in the future you will need to sign-up using our opt-in box at our website.
Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused. Have a great day.
Your Name, Your company. "
Sending a polite email like this will help to keep the customers impression of your company a positive one. And on no account should you try and persuade the customer to stay on the list.
Do not try to hide the un-subscribe function: I've received many emails recently where the sender has added 100 blank lines below the message so the signature and unsubscribe are hidden away at the bottom of the page. You have to scroll several pages to see the unsubscribe.
People do this because they do not want you to un-subscribe. This raises 2 points. The first is the obvious one, if people want to un-subscribe and they do not see a link they'll probably just hit the "Report Spam" button on their email interface. This is much worse than simply letting people unsubscribe.
And secondly why do you want to send emails to people who no longer want to hear from you? Do not you think that further emails will just annoy them? And do you really think they are likely to buy from you once they are annoyed?
Remember if a customer is really annoyed they will not deal with you again, but if a customer is simply not interested right now then you may still be able to get them at a later date. Perhaps now is just not the right time.
So make it easy for them to unsubscribe and sometimes they'll come back to you again later.
Do not market to a transactional list without permission : Just because someone bought from you does not mean that they want to ever hear from you again so do not automatically add a purchaser to a marketing list.
It is okay to keep them on a transactional list while you can send them emails regarding updates or new contact details in case of technical difficulty etc.
But you must not send them marketing messages. Transactional emails do not come under the CanSpam laws but once you send a marketing message they do. And at that point you will need to prove where theyave you permission to send them the email.
You can however have an extra opt-in box on your sales page saying
"I would also like to sign up for your great weekly newsletter."
You can also add a section to the bottom of your "Thanks for purchase" email saying,
"To keep up with all our latest and greatest offers sign up to our new weekly newsletter. This is only available to purchasers and you can sign up here [add link to sign up page]"
All the above helps keep you legal and keeps your customers happy.