If your email marketing campaign is not seeing results, it could be a case of sending messages to all the wrong people. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, you find yourself in breach of anti-spam laws and are hit with a massive fine. 204 million emails are sent every 60 seconds so the level of ‘junk’ mail received must be truly extraordinary.
Unfortunately, the amount of emails sent and received is so enormous that many legitimate businesses send emails that ultimately get labelled as ‘spam’ and this can get them in serious trouble. In Canada for example, corporations can be hit with administrative monetary penalties of up to $10 million Canadian Dollars; they could also be hit with statutory damages of $1 million A DAY! Can you say ‘bankruptcy’? While these fines are at the extreme end of the scale, being fined under anti-spam laws is bad for your reputation as well. The punishment varies across the world and in this article; we will generally focus on the UK.
In essence, a spam email is an email sent to a person without their consent. While this is designed to prevent spammers from harassing companies and individuals with thousands of emails a day, it also hurts legitimate businesses. A lengthier definition of spam is ‘an unsolicited marketing message sent electronically to any individual without acquiring their contact information during sale or negotiations towards a sale’.
Companies must also provide consumers with the option to ‘opt out’ of future marketing when the information is first collected and there should be an easy to find ‘opt out’ choice in every marketing email you send. In other words, you CAN send marketing emails to people when you have received their address after they have either bought something from your business or looked for information.
Anti-Spam Laws UK
In the United Kingdom there are actually two different laws:
• Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR): This legislation was brought into effect in 2003 and I essentially covered it above: PECR says you can’t send marketing emails to people unless you have a clearly defined customer relationship.
• Data Protection Act: This came into law back in 1998 and it now relates to email marketing. Consumers have the right to ask companies to stop sending unwanted direct marketing messages regardless of whether it is by post, email or phone. Email marketing companies are known to have cleverly tricked consumers into ticking (or not ticking) boxes which asked if the customer did or didn’t want to receive future marketing messages. The Consumer Rights Directive will change all of that so there is a lower chance of you accidently giving your consent to junk mail.
Complying With Anti-Spam Laws
Regardless of whether you are operating out of the UK, US, Australia or anywhere else in the world, these tips should help you remain compliant with anti-spam laws and help you avoid a substantial fine.
• Don’t Use Misleading Header Information: The ‘To’, ‘From’ and ‘Reply-To’ fields in your marketing emails should accurately identify your business. In other words, if you company is called Leicestershoes.com, your email should come from leicestershoes.com instead of another domain or URL.
• Avoid Deceptive Headlines: You know the type: “Save 75% off your next shoe order” is the headline but when you open the email it is about Moldovan orphans or something. If you want to fall foul of anti-spam laws, lie in your headline.
• State the Email is an Ad: While you can be as subtle as you like, it is important to state somewhere in the email that it is an advertisement.
• Give a Physical Address: You need to include a street or postal address where your business can be identified. It is far too easy for fake companies with no addresses to steal money from unwitting customers.
• Provide an Opt-Out: I mentioned this earlier and it is an essential part of email marketing. Most companies place the ‘opt-out’ at the end of the email message and when the reader clicks on the link provided, they are brought to a menu which gives them the option to ‘opt-out’ of future mailings. You must also honour the consumer’s choice once they have elected to ‘opt-out’. While this period of time varies, you generally need to honour their request within 10 working days.
It is important to note that even if you have hired another company to perform your email marketing campaign on your behalf, you are still responsible for what they send. Therefore, you need to monitor their conduct at all times to ensure you don’t get into trouble. Most email marketing programs make it easy to be compliant with anti-spam laws but you must take care because every email that breaks the rules could cost you thousands of pounds if not more.