Owning a small business means you are in charge of everything but the kitchen sink, Well, you probably are in charge of that too! But, what I am referring to is that you are not only the CEO, CFO, and the COO, you are also the Marketing Manager. You have the all important job of promoting your business, marketing its services as well as building the relationships with those will potentially become your clients or customers.
Marketing has become more exciting and maybe even a little complex since we have entered the digital realm. The Digital Age means that we can now reach infinitely large segments of people we would’ve never been able to reach before. Target market identification is a lot easier than it was in the past along with all the digital capabilities we have at our disposal. To our advantage as well, digital marketing sometimes comes at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing. Both have their merits and can be used in conjunction with each other to maximize your Return On Investment (ROI). See this Infographic: Direct Mail vs Email to learn more.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Digital Marketing encompasses so many different types of online marketing such as Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, and Email Marketing to name a few. Oftentimes many forms of marketing are intertwined and used together to really maximize a brands reach and visibility. But, because Email Marketing has such a huge impact in many businesses marketing practices, it is important to be aware of as well as learn the ins and outs of Email Marketing along with best practices.
You may (or may not) have read my bio but I have worked many years in the email marketing industry, albeit, as a front end developer. But, I have loved everything about email since it came into existence! Even when it came to me on a clunky, monochrome computer screen. I was drawn to how it let us communicate with one another in a split second. Mesmerized by how it could foster relationships from these micro communications. Eventually, I was intrigued by how pretty, enticing or convincing emails were and how much enjoyment I got reading the many juicy offers or little nudges to purchase (also known as Calls To Action, or CTA). Some might say I might be suffering from a rather severe case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because I usually “click through”.
Over my career, I have loved building each and every one of those email campaign messages for clients (despite its many challenge) and I’ve learnt so much about Email Marketing best practices and picked up many tips along the way. I still love email marketing in my new life as a virtual support professional. But, I digress.
The importance of compliance
Over the years in this industry I’ve learnt how important and valuable email marketing is and why it continues to live on. It is in a business’ best interest to maintain a customers’ trust and confidence in their business by not sending unsolicited email. I’ve highlighted some of the laws that regulate the influx of spam but always be sure to follow the Anti-Spam Laws From Around the World.
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
Canada has some of the strictest Spam laws in the world. Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation or, CASL, came into full effect on on July 1, 2017 yet many businesses are still unaware of the anti-spam laws. It is our responsibility to ensure we understand and implement this fully. Laws always seem daunting but visit Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation website for everything you need to know to comply. Take the spam quiz and see how much you really know. Many compliance rules
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Most recently, Europe has taken a harsher stance on unsolicited electronic communications as well. The European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect May 25, 2018 and can seem complex as well but following the guidelines as best you can will be in your best course of action. After all, if you are an online business, your clients can come from anywhere in the world and following the rules pertaining to those countries or territories will be in your best interest. Ensure that your communications such as your email newsletters are in compliance with the EU’s GDPR legislation. There are a ton of resources that can help you through this process such as Hubspot’s guide: https://www.hubspot.com/data-privacy/gdpr but take a look at the directive for specific details of the key issues: https://gdpr-info.eu/key-issues/
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act
For the United States the The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003 is the United States’ first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail. It was signed into law on December 16, 2003 and The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces its provisions. You can read more about this in the FTC’s article CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business that states: “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. It also outlines CAN-SPAM’s main requirements and that following this directive isn’t complicated.
Compliance in Email Marketing
The point is that you should follow the laws of your country or audience. This will ensure you are in compliance with the regulations and avoid future problems when sending our electronic commercial messages or email. Running a business is difficult at the best of times. But, it is also where we learn the most about process, procedures, tools, and regulations. Compliance with email communication is important in today’s business world because so many take advantage of this incredible marketing tool. To be sure you are reaching your ideal customers and not spamming or turning off those future customers, at least know the basics. Ultimately, this will hurt your business’ reputation. You do not want to end up blacklisted for non-compliance or face heavy penalties.
Tips and Best Practices
The best approach is to allow your subscribers to opt-in to your mailing list. This is known as permission-based marketing. By taking these steps, you know that your subscribers want to be in touch and they want to hear from you. Sending email to anyone and everyone means that you are likely not reaching your intended audience. Here are some tips and best practices to get you on your way:
Ask your subscribers to opt-in to your mailing list.
Even better, use the double opt-in method. Double opt-in means that they have provided their emails to you to subscribe to your list and they will confirm this, once again, by clicking on a link you send them to that email and confirm their opt in. This is security that each recipient has given express permission to send them emails. The proof is documented into your email subscriber list in your database.
Don’t assume you have permission.
In recent months, I’ve been added to many a mailing list just because I came into contact with or shared my email address with someone at a networking event. Handing out your business card does not give you permission to send me email. Keep in mind that your customers (or your colleagues and acquaintances you met at a trade show, etc) have not provided permission to send promotional email to them. Always get their permission first.
Never use purchased or rented lists.
Gone are the days when you would purchase your mailing lists. I was asked by a potential client a couple years ago, how they could do this and it gave me pause to think that business owners still think that this is okay. While things have changed drastically in email marketing, many still don’t know or understand the best practices.
Keep your promise.
People sign up to your mailing list knowing what they signed up for. If you’ve asked subscribes to sign up for your newsletters be sure to do only that. Unless you have specified that you will occasionally send out other promotional email message, be true to your promise. If you want to send out different content other than what was specified, consider setting up segments or groups in your list. Subscribers can then choose what content they want to receive from you.
How to get permission from subscribers?
Consider adding a signup form to your website or Facebook page. Giving customers the option to sign up for your newsletter or adding them to your list when they make a purchase from your online store are a few ways you can get permission. Add a “Subscribe” link to your website and share the links to you social media platforms. By asking permission this means you are well on your way to getting the subscribers you really want.
Those that care about your business and what you have to offer will gladly offer their email in exchange for the valuable information you will provide. They will be more interested in how you can help them when asked politely. When people willingly give you their email they are giving you permission to communicate with them. They actually want to hear from you. This is the approach all business should take. The value and returns you get from this best practice is so much more advantageous.
Starting a mailing list might sound daunting If you are just starting out but there are many platforms out there that are suitable for small businesses. Even better, some allow you to use them for free. I highly recommend Mailchimp if you are starting out. It is easy to use and learn and offers you enough tools to start your email marketing. On May 13, 2019 Mailchimp announced big changes to their all-in-one Marketing Platform. The recent changes to their business model means you don’t get as many bells and whistles for free. Mailchimp still offers a great tool and platform to get you started on your Email Marketing.
The bottom line
The point is to understand that sending unsolicited electronic messages enmasse you come into contact with is no longer acceptable. It’s just not cool. Play nice and don’t spam. Remember, Spam negatively impacts deliverability rates of your emails so always follow the guidelines. Get permission and start building a great relationship with your customers or subscribers. You will be glad that you did.
Quick Links and Information
Here are more links and information if you would like to learn more about email marketing best practices. These sites will provide a good basis to get your off on the right foot.
- Al Iverson provides more tips on email, anti-spam, policy compliance and email marketing best practices at Spam Resource.
- Aweber’s article on Meet the Anti-Spam Laws From Around the World is a great place to start in identifying what regulations may affect you
- EmailKarma.net is a blog dedicated to email best practices
- Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation
- The Federal Trade Commission’s CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business
- Complete guide to GDPR compliance, you’ll find a library of straightforward and up-to-date information to help organizations achieve GDPR compliance.
- Mailchimp 101 will walk you through the basics to get you started with your email marketing
- Glossary of Terms for Email Compliance
If you would like assistance on how to implement email marketing best practices, please do not hesitate to let us know. We can help.