Ahh email marketing. My old friend. I feel sorry for you.
You’re an unsung hero. You continue to return the most sales and leads for the lowest cost (or for free!) and you’re so damn easy and cheap too (but, you know, in a good way).
TIP: The best sources for gaining more customers, spend aside? That award goes to organic search (I hope you have SEO on your marketing to do list in 2017), with paid search in 2nd place (you do already do Google Adwords right?).
So with email marketing the number 1 way to get more sales for the lowest cost (or free), then why oh why do so many companies pay to reach their audience through other peoples websites and other peoples email lists, when you could talk to your audience direct for a smidge of the cost?
Yes, I know a huge part of your problem is going to be old fashioned list building.
Other people already have large databases full of your potential customers. How do you build your own list? How do you even get started?!
Well, since you asked, there are SO many, easy ways to move other people’s customers and audience to your own email database (there are 5 of them here).
But before you put those into action, what about the hundreds or thousands of customers you already have on your database?
Yep, by that I mean every customer that’s bought from you before!
I’m going to hazard a guess here that your hand just shot up in the air with a question for me and your eyebrows have just fused into a mono-brow from a mix of suspicion and confusion.
You think you can’t send those people promotional emails even though you have their email addresses. Because they haven’t given you permission, right?
To understand the gold you have at your fingertips right now, you need to know who you can and can’t email, that there is more than one level of consent, plus you need to be clued up on how to go about it to cover yourself legally.
You do not need them to opt in!
But you do need to avoid being the next headline, like this Auckland based marketing company that was ordered to pay $120,000 (yes, that’s a comma, $120k!), for sending spam via email and text messages – the largest penalty imposed for sending spam in New Zealand (press release).
If you’re in New Zealand, it’s the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 that you need to pay attention to (oh, and if your digital agency doesn’t know this baby inside out, you might want to have a few stern words as they could be putting you at serious risk).
What is considered spam?
So first up, NZ’s spam law covers anything that’s considered spam that has an NZ link.
But what makes it spam? It could be any electronic message that is ‘commercial in nature’.
Yep, that’s email, fax, SMS, instant messaging…
That means you’re selling, marketing or promoting something, such as a product, event or service, or sending people somewhere where commercial transactions happen, such as your website.
IMPORTANT: Spam does not only apply to bulk messages!
For example, if you write a personal email to one individual, even if the content of the email is not commercial, but you link to your company’s website in your email signature – that counts as spam too! That will wake up a few readers right there, uh oh.
Spam starts with consent.
How did you get their email? Did the receiver agree to get commercial messages from you?
It sounds so simple, but it’s consent where things get confusing (or exciting, if you didn’t know you actually have consent right now!).
So first up, you can breathe a sigh of relief right now as these types of emails below are NOT considered ‘commercial electronic messages’:
- Responding to a request for a quote or estimate.
- A message needed to progress or confirm a commercial transaction that the receiver previously agreed to.
- Warranty information, product recalls, safety and security information about products or services bought by the receiver.
- Factual information about ongoing relationships with the receiver, like subscriptions, membership information, reward point updates, account status, loan updates and so on.
- Information related to employment or employee benefits sent to employees.
- Delivery information and updates for products or services the receiver has purchased.
For all of those, you’re good to go 🙂
Those messages do not need information about the sender (ie: your company) or the ability to unsubscribe, and you already have the person’s consent.
How to cover yourself legally
If your message could be considered commercial, then you need to make sure you cover yourself in these 3 ways no matter what:
- Ok, so you need consent as we know. I’ll define exactly what that means that in a tick. It’s probably not what you think!
- You also need to identify yourself, not only who you are but how to get in touch with you. There are a few things you need to cover off here too which I’ll go through shortly.
- You also need to include the ability to unsubscribe. More about that coming up also.
What counts as consent?
There are 3 levels of consent in New Zealand:
EXPRESS CONSENT is the one we all know about. That means the person directly opted in to get commercial messages from you.
They might have completed a form on paper and ticked a box, ticked a box on your website or given you verbal permission by phone or face-to-face.
INFERRED CONSENT is the next level down and here’s where we get into something most companies have no idea they have. This is your goldmine people!
This level means the person did not directly say ‘send me stuff’ but a clear, reasonable expectation that you will send them commercial messages does exist.
For example, they purchased something from your website and entered their email address. That means there’s a reasonable expectation they’ll hear from you by email about the same or similar products and services in the future.
That does NOT mean you can send them unrelated commercial content though!!! And it’s a big hell no on sending other companies offers to them either. Nuh uh, don’t you dare!
So that huge database of past and current customers? You definitely CAN send them commercial emails (however ideally I still personally recommend you first get Express Consent from them and move them up a level, but you don’t have to unless you’re unsure if you don’t even have inferred consent).
DEEMED CONSENT is the grey area. Doable, but not something I personally recommend even though it is legal, plus it could get you in trouble unless you’re careful.
Deemed Consent means the person has publicly published their work-related address, such as on a brochure, website or in a magazine.
Then you can send them commercial messages BUT not if that publication also says that they don’t want to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages.
Plus, keep in mind if you’re hanging out in the Deemed Consent area, you have to make sure the content you’re sending relates to the person’s business.
So for all you people who connect with me on LinkedIn then send me commercial messages, STOP NOW.
Since you can’t get in touch with me without first connecting personally on LinkedIn, that’s not considered publicly published, plus it’s not my work address either!
Right, so now you know if you have consent and which type. That’s the biggie done and dusted.
Next up you need to cover yourself for both the ‘identify’ and ‘unsubscribe’ legal requirements.
How do you legally identify yourself?
Your commercial message (SMS, email etc) must clearly identify the business who’s sending the message AND how you can be contacted.
IMPORTANT: If a third party sends a commercial message on your behalf, then they have to include your business name and contact details also. Make sure they don’t get you in trouble by missing this!
Obviously you are going to be restricted by the type of message, so you’ll have full business and contact information in an email, but it will be short and sweet in an SMS message for example.
Plus the contact information has to be likely to be a valid way to contact you for up to 30 days following sending the message.
Last but not least, is unsubscribe…
What counts as a legal unsubscribe?
Your SMS or email message needs to have a ‘functioning unsubscribe facility’.
That means it has to allow people to communicate that they do not want commercial messages to be sent to them from your company in the future.
Plus, it has to be easy to use and free.
Even if your unsubscribe is a simple sentence saying ‘If you don’t wish to hear from us in the future, send a reply with unsubscribe in the subject line’ then that’s totally ok. It’s not okay if you sent the email from a ‘no reply’ email address though, doh!
What’s more, you must action an unsubscribe request within 5 days.
Stuff this up and you could be the next to get in trouble, like The Warehouse did recently when they kept sending marketing emails to people who had tried to unsubscribe. The result? A fine of $19,800 and a lot of bad press (news article).
So contrary to popular belief, unsubscribe does not have to be automated – like the common ‘click to unsubscribe’ or ‘reply stop to opt out’ that you see in most commercial messages – but it’s very smart to automate your unsubscribes in case you forget to unsubscribe them manually or accidentally add them back in!
Feeling more confident now on what you can and can’t do?
Do keep in mind you need to make sure you comply with not only the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 but also the Privacy Act 1993. If you’re not familiar with them, make sure your digital agency is, but remember, ignorance will not protect you. You are liable at the end of the day.
Wow, so that was a whole lot more serious than my usual articles, but I sincerely hope this becomes one of those articles you bookmark to refer to later, and you share with your network (especially with your marketing and sales team, often the biggest culprits of breaking the rules in this area!).
If you did learn something new – raised hand and furrowed brow aside – please take a moment to like or share before you go. Thank you 🙂