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4 Ways to “Legislation-proof” Your Email Marketing

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by: Richard Evans (@rlevans)
20 October 2011

The recent announcement from the EU Council of Ministers on 10 October has created a good deal of discussion around what the new prescription for stricter consumer rights in the 27 EU countries means for marketers. There has even been dialogue in the email marketing space around what the new directive means for pre-checked opt-in boxes on Web forms.

Regardless of how strict or lenient your interpretation of the new requirements, the introduction of tougher regulations will benefit not only consumers, but also savvy marketers. Read that last sentence again if you are a bit perplexed—savvy marketers will benefit from tighter regulations and stricter technology such as “intelligent inboxes” and improved spam filters.

In a world of overflowing inboxes, buzzing mobiles and social network newsfeeds filled with brand messages, only the marketers that focus on meeting consumer demands and better engaging with them will succeed. And whether through new regulations, fines and penalties, or new technologies that make irrelevant email marketing less effective, the entire industry will benefit from these changes.

As you navigate through the myriad of new regulations coming in the United Kingdom and the broader EU countries, here are some quick thoughts on how you can “legislation-proof” your email marketing programme for the future:

1) Understand that meeting legislative requirements is the bare minimum.
Why do we have to create laws governing the use of cookies? And tickboxes? And unsolicited email? We create them because we as consumers are tired of irrelevance and abuse. We create them because some marketers focus more on volume and sloppy marketing practices than they do on relevance and effectiveness.

In the end, legislative guidelines are the bare minimum for marketers. If you want to succeed and excel in your career, you should focus far beyond the bare minimums. Doing so will ensure that your email marketing practices will rarely, if ever, be pared back by new regulations. So, create best-in-class programmes today so you aren’t jumping through hoops for years to come.

2) Whether the law says pre-checked opt-in boxes are legal or illegal, consider not using them.
It’s a contentious statement I know. But again I have to ask—why do email marketers want to use pre-checked opt-in boxes? Mainly because they are focused on or measured by list growth—which is the wrong metric altogether.

I would gladly take 1,000 opt-ins who knowingly requested my messages and are expecting to receive them than 10,000 who subscribed inadvertently and will ultimately either not respond, unsubscribe or report abuse. In fact, one of our clients, Intertops, did just that—it reduced the size of its email marketing database by 75 percent, removing inactives collected from more than 10 years of growth.

Subsequently, Intertops saw a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in opens and clicks and a 100 percent improvement in deliverability. More subscribers is not the goal. More engagement and revenue is. Lose the pre-checked opt-in boxes, whether the EU tells you to or not. (Read more about how Intertops improved deliverability.)

3) Truly believe that email marketing is NOT an acquisition channel.
Social media hasn’t killed email marketing. It hasn’t even harmed it. In fact, social media has done more for email marketing than any other development in past years. One of the key things social media has done is freed email from the grips of marketers who felt it should be an acquisition channel. It shouldn’t.

Email is (and always has been) one of the best marketing channels for building and deepening relationships through relevant, targeted, personalised communications. Social media is fantastic at creating buzz and extending the reach of your brand. Harness it and use it to drive interested consumers into your email marketing programme. And after doing so, focus on using email to drive ROI and create deeper engagement with those consumers who express interest.

4) Give more power and control to your subscribers.
If you truly want to legislation-proof your email marketing programme, you can do it with one simple ethos—create programmes and communications that are demanded by your customers. And, at each point, give them as much power and control of the relationship with your brand as you can. After all, each new piece of legislation that rolls out from any government is focused on forcing marketers into doing just this. So, do your brand some good and focus on your subscribers. If you do, you may never have to make another change to your email programme to become “legislatively compliant.”


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