Email marketing best practices are essential because they are a very effective tool for reaching customers and converting leads. It’s also an important component of any customer retention initiative. But not every email marketing campaign is created equal. While it’s important to follow the rules outlined by the CAN-SPAM Act, adhering to the law is the bare minimum in marketing. The good news is that keeping to email marketing best practices is also a great way to increase consumer engagement.
The value of email marketing
While other channels, such as social media and SMS, have risen to prominence in recent years, email is still a valuable marketing tool for many reasons. In fact, you could argue that email marketing is the foundation for many companies’ entire internet marketing endeavors. Just consider these statistics and trends, as curated by HubSpot:
- Over half of all people say they read the majority of their emails.
- In 2014, email marketing was cited as the single most effective digital marketing channel for retaining and engaging customers in the U.S.
- Of B2B marketers surveyed, 59 percent say email is their most effective tool for generating revenue.
- Approximately 49 percent of B2B marketers spend more resources and time on email than any other digital marketing channel.
There are dozens of other statistics like these, but the four referenced here provide a relevant snapshot of the importance of investing in email marketing as your business moves forward.
Legal issues marketers must consider
President George W. Bush helped put the CAN-SPAM Act in place in 2003 in an attempt control the presence of non-solicited pornography and marketing via commercial email. In addition to having a really clever name, the act has made email marketing a little more challenging for businesses. However, it’s a small price to pay to protect the privacy of consumers.
Actually, that last statement isn’t entirely true. If a business is found guilty of violating the privacy of customers, the government can charge the organization $16,000 per violation per individual email. In other words, sending out a few hundred unsolicited spammy emails can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
If you want to stay on the right side of the law and avoid violating email marketing laws, then you’ll need to consider the following tips and advice:
1. Consider Customer Data Security
Your number one priority is to keep customer data and information safe. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly common for hackers to target small businesses via email. They do so by trying to get users to unknowingly click on spammy links or download malicious software. While you can’t prevent all spam, you can increase the safety of your email system and the integrity of your users’ data by establishing and maintaining the right filters, firewalls, and security packages. Make sure you take proper measures to remain complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
2. Ask for Customer Permission
If you’re going to send regular, unsolicited emails to users, you must first gain their permission. This customer consent can come in oral or written form, but is traditionally expressed through an opt-in form on a company’s website. The form typically explains what the user is opting into, asks them for their email address, and requires them to check a box that clearly indicates they’re voluntarily signing up for your email list.
3. Avoid Misleading Information
Customers are legally protected by a right that allows them to know exactly who an email’s sender is. The “From,” “To,” and “Reply To” forms on an email must be honest and clear. A misleading header or routing information is in direct violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. Most businesses wouldn’t ever think of guising their information, but it does happen and the FTC doesn’t look very kindly upon it.
4. Offer the Recipient Options
Recipients always have the right to opt-out of an email list. This means you’re required by law to offer an option at the bottom of your email that allows them to unsubscribe. Furthermore, you have to honor these requests in a prompt manner. The CAN-SPAM Act specifically says that you must honor these requests within 10 business days. The good news is that most automated email marketing tools take care of opt-outs automatically. However, you should occasionally check on this, just to make sure you’re in compliance.
5. Have a Dedicated Team
As your marketing department grows, it’s important that you give email the attention it deserves. If your budget allows for it, you should consider establishing an email marketing team that’s solely focused on increasing engagement and staying within the law. This is can allow businesses owners and marketing directors the opportunity to focus on bigger picture issues and the overall direction of the company’s digital marketing campaigns.
The Difference Between Valuable Content and Spam
Don’t let the information in this article scare you away from email marketing. When done right, email marketing offers incredibly valuable returns and high engagement rates. The key is to understand the difference between valuable content and spam. Thankfully, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides some pretty clear framework.
“What matters is the ‘primary purpose’ of the message,” the FTC explains. “To determine the primary purpose, remember that an email can contain three different types of information.” The FTC outlines these three types as commercial content, transactional or relationship content, and other content.
“If the message contains only commercial content, its primary purpose is commercial and it must comply with the requirements of CAM-SPAM,” the FTC clearly tells businesses. “If it contains only transactional or relationship content, its primary purpose is transactional or relationship.” In this case, the email can’t contain misleading routing information. You can read more about the details by checking out the FTC compliance guide.
Don’t Break the Law
The moral of the story is that you don’t want to get caught breaking the law. The risks are too severe to take any chances. Email marketing is an incredibly valuable tool for brands looking to expand their reach and engage users, so don’t mess this up. Follow the rules mentioned in this article, research anything that’s unclear, and build an honest brand.