I am genuinely amazed at the illegal practice I frequently see in relation to email Marketing. This is often small organisations where an individual does not appreciate the legal implications of what they are doing, however there are many larger organisations where people are sending out illegitimate and illegal email campaigns.
Email Best Practice
I believe it is always best to follow best practice regarding any Marketing activity, not just to follow the law, but I really don’t want to irritate people. So, I have listed below some points to follow related to email marketing. These points are all subject to change and there are up to date sources online stating the current legislation relating to email marketing, but if you follow these and avoid any malicious behaviour, you should be complying with best practice.
- Permission – you must have permission from an individual prior to emailing them. Ideally this is via a double opt-in where recipients allow emails and then follow up with a consent to do so. You can send an email to a corporate address such as firstname.lastname@example.org, however you must provide a means to opt-out or unsubscribe. You can email previous customers or enquirers, but only if you have their permission and have provided a means by which they can opt out of communications or unsubscribe.
- Data Protection – you must store personal information securely and only collect details required for the stated purpose. You should only keep the details for as long as you need them. An individual can request what details you have about them via a ‘subject access request’ and you are obliged to respond.
- Sender Details – Limited companies and private limited companies in England and Wales are obliged to include the following details with all emails: Company name, registration number, place of registration and registered office.
- Opt-Out – you must provide an opt-out option for recipients so they can easily unsubscribe from future communications. Any opt-out requests should be processed quickly, ideally via an automated system.
- Sharing Email Addresses – if you wish to pass on email addresses to a third party, you must obtain consent from each and every individual. You must clearly specify this when obtaining email details and provide a means to opt-out.
- Purchased Email Lists – if you purchase an email list from a company then you must ensure you have permission to send messages to the email addresses. Companies selling email addresses must have gained consent from individuals for third party emails. In my experience, purchasing email addresses is not very effective compared to naturally sourced contacts, such as online forms and personal requests.
Email Marketing is a great tool, but anyone embarking on an email campaign should be aware of the rules, which vary by country and are likely to become more restrictive in the UK over the next few years. The worst practices I have seen include using the cc field for all email addresses, which effectively gives away your entire email contacts list (silly, dangerous and illegal). Also I find poor unsubscribe functions are really irritating, especially where you have to fill in your details to unsubscribe and specify why you no longer wish to receive emails. Most email software packages include the unsubscribe details and functionality, so you don’t have to do anything and this ensures you have a nice clean relevant contacts list.
My final point is that once you have a nice loyal contacts list, please ensure that you send them relevant emails with interesting content. I am completely bombarded by some companies with sale after sale or just a pointless message that ticks a box for a Marketing department or agency. Also ensure you do a complete check on all details prior to sending out emails as the “Oops, we made a mistake emails” are very unprofessional.