I was all set with a topic for this week’s blog. I was going to talk about my daughter’s search for a new violin, and how that resonates with aspects of business. Then…..all hell broke loose!
The story concerns marketing emails, but before I begin, it’s worth reviewing the rules on this topic.
Email Marketing – the rules
I, like many other people, get a fair amount of marketing emails. In the main I get them because I have, at some point in time, agreed to receive marketing communications from the company in question. Sometimes that has been a response to the company itself, but some of them come from other members of the local Chambers of Commerce, as one of the questions asked when joining the chamber is would I be happy to receive emails from other members.
One could probably make a case again the chamber being allowed to do this, but as the main reason I joined the chamber was to network with other local businesses, it seems a bit churlish to stop them informing me of what they offer.
Since 2003, the general rule of thumb with sending out marketing emails has been to gain opt-in from the people receiving the email before you send anything. What does this mean? Simply that they have agreed for you to send them email communications. If they are UK-based and do not have such agreement then any such communication is deemed spam and has consequences (which we will come to).
If you are interested in finding out a bit more then the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has a great data sheet.
Email Marketing gone wrong
So lets go back to the story, and the start of the whole sorry affair. Yesterday I received a marketing email. In actual fact I received three copies in quick succession. Already alarms bells were ringing in my head. Rather than delete them, curiosity got the better of me and I opened them. Eeek. There were a few issues…
- Each email had been sent directly from the senders’ email client (Outlook in this case)
- Each email has a large PDF file attached.
- Each email had dozens of recipients, all in the To: field
The last point is obvious the most serious. In sending the email this way, all the recipients were able to see the email addresses of every other recipient. This is a pretty serious breach of Data Protection legislation!
Funnily enough, this was almost immediately point out by someone replying to the original email. But the reply went to the full list too! If it wasn’t so gob-smacking it would be funny.
Of course, once the original email had gone out, over the intervening time I have received…
- A number of other marketing emails where it’s obvious the same list of recipients has been used. Obvious because in most cases they have simply hit ‘reply to all’ and added their marketing spiel to the top. Most of these haven’t even deleted the original email text!
- A marketing email (as above) from a marketing/graphics person! (unbelievable)
- A number of irate responses (again to all of the original recipients) asking to be removed from further communications.
- An email from another marketing agency stating that anyone who emails them using the same list will be reported as a spammer
I would put numbers again these items, but the emails are still coming in!
It’s worth pointing out that the threat to flag someone as a spammer (not just with the ISP but with Google and Spamcop too) can have a significant impact on day-to-day emails. If an email address is perceived to originate spam then many email providers will automatically move it to a spam folder, or not deliver it at all!
A business flagged in this way could suddenly find that crucial communications with customers and prospects start to go missing. This can have a serious impact on the most important thing of all, revenue!
In a way I feel a bit sorry for the girl who originated this sorry mess. I think she acted out of ignorance rather than malice, and it has all escalated horrendously. One of the irate responders actually asked her to sort the mess out, but I don’t think that’s possible now. It will die down in a bit, and hopefully some lessons will have been learned.
So what should have happened? How could an effective and, more importantly, legal communication have been issued in the first place? In my experience, a great way for SME’s to create email campaigns is as follows:
- Start with your website! You email campaign should always send people to a page on your site, preferably one dedicated to the email campaign, but otherwise one promoting the service that the email is publicising. Why?
- Any downloads (e.g. PDF files) can be stored on your website so that people only have to download them if they are interested.
- You can track interest in your service/product more effectively. Did they click through to your website? Once there, did they download the data sheet/brochure? A good analytics package can tell you all this and more.
- Use an email marketing service. I like Mailchimp as it’s very user-friendly and free for most SME’s, but there are others such as Aweber and Constant Contact. This gives you some very big advantages…
- List management: you can store your opted-in email addresses within the service so that you only email them, you can track what you’ve sent to them and unsubscribes are handled automatically.
- Website integration: you can easily add a widget to your website that will allow people to opt-in to receiving marketing emails from you.
- Autoresponders: You can consider more sophisticated email campaigns, for example an email triggered when someone signs up to one of your lists.
- Analytics: You can track email bounces (when they are not delivered), opened emails, clicks on links in emails and more.
If our original emailer had taken this approach, not only would she have created a much slicker, more professional campaign, but the rest of us would not have had the subsequent hassle.
I have emailed her 🙂