Crafting the perfect email strategy can be tricky. Not only do you need to appeal to the masses in a fresh and authentic way, but you also have to maintain strict legal guidelines. Many large corporations outsource to marketing firms who bear all liabilities, but small businesses may not have that luxury.
Do you want to know if your email campaign strategy is legal? Start by asking the five questions below.
1. Did You Buy an Email List?
Years ago, paid email lists were common. You’d create an email, purchase a list and blast thousands of inboxes at once. Today, though — according to the CAN-SPAM Act — it’s illegal to buy and sell email addresses. Not only is the process shady, but it’s also ineffective. The chances of finding a high-quality email list for sale are slim-to-none.
Let’s say you do purchase a list and send a marketing blast. Most of these emails will bounce, meaning they’re undelivered. The remainder will go unopened or marked as spam, which taints your sender reputation through hosts like Gmail and Outlook. Building a targeted email list from scratch takes time, but the results are well worth the effort.
2. Did You Include an Opt-Out Option?
The open rate, click-through rate and leads generated are the most important metrics in email marketing. No one wants to lose subscribers, but it happens. If you send an email — even a friendly, “Hey, thanks for subscribing!” — you must include an opt-out option. A simple unsubscribe button at the bottom, near your company’s contact information, will suffice.
Avoid email templates touting deception, with the opt-out button hidden in a same-colored background. Today’s consumers are smart and will see straight through the deceit. You must also honor all opt-outs within a timely fashion — 10 days, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Most marketing automation software can take care of this process for you.
3. Do You Write Clickbait Titles?
A title is anything you use to represent your marketing materials, such as a header, blog title, email subject line, sender/recipient line and more. You should write compelling and exciting titles that grab the reader’s attention. Clickbait, however, is a form of false advertisement, using controversial headlines that often have little to do with the actual content.
Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show,” offered the perfect anecdote for clickbait. He said, “It’s like carnival barkers, and they all sit out there and go, ‘Come on in here and see a three-legged man!’ So you walk in and it’s a guy with a crutch.” It’s OK to write attention-grabbing headlines — but give the reader an accurate idea of what to expect once they continue.
4. Do You Listen to User Feedback?
Do you have a way for users to offer feedback? It’s not illegal if you don’t, but it can be a great way to pinpoint potential problem areas. Not all feedback will be worthwhile, but once in a while, you’ll find a few small nuggets of gold. Make it easy for users to ask questions and provide feedback by linking to a contact form on both your website and emails.
For example, say you get a large number of people who unsubscribe after sending your first batch of emails. If several of these users mark “did not sign-up for emails” as their reasoning, you can re-evaluate your list-building strategies. Perhaps someone complains about too-small text or lack of photos — all this information can be used to make improvements.
5. Do You Need to Comply With GDPR?
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) outlines how you can collect, use and store personal information. This includes data like names, email addresses, phone numbers and more. Most people think GDPR only applies to businesses in the European Union. However, any company that targets EU individuals must also comply.
The rules are relatively simple. You must have a user’s consent before you collect their data or email them. If you find that user data has been compromised, it’s your responsibility under GDPR to notify people within 72 hours. Those in violation of these regulations could face fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover, or $24.6 million — whichever is bigger.
Do you want to navigate the legal waters of email marketing? Then ask yourself the five critical questions above. Your answers will help you decide if you’re making the right choices, from building your lists to designing an email layout.