By Winmark Business Solutions
The first rule of ethical email marketing is to never send unsolicited commercial email. This means you should only send emails to customers that have willingly provided their email address and have extended permission to send commercial messages.
The practice of sending unsolicited commercial messages is referred to as spamming and is not tolerated by customers or the companies that provide customers with email accounts. Businesses that have a reputation of sending spam are blacklisted.
This means the email address is placed on a shared list of banned senders, and none of the outgoing messages will be delivered to recipients. The process of being removed from a blacklist is difficult, time-consuming and avoidable by following best practices when building your email list:
- Offer many opt-in opportunities — Allow individuals to sign-up for your email list from several locations. On your Web site, provide a page for visitors to subscribe to your enewsletter or email-based promotions. Additionally, integrate the ability to subscribe with your shopping cart, so that each new customer is invited to subscribe. Offline, provide an opportunity for in-store customers to subscribe to your enewsletter and email-based promotions at checkout. Ask store clerks to extend an invitation to customers.
- Set expectations — Let subscribers know, before they choose to participate, how your company will use email to communicate. Describe how often you are going to contact individuals who provide email addresses. Describe what information will be sent. If they are subscribing to a newsletter, provide examples for them to review prior to subscribing.
- Double opt-in — This is the practice of validating email addresses provided by your customer to ensure that the email they provided is accurate. The process works as follows:
- Customer provides their email address to your company.
- Your company sends an invitation to the email address provided by the customer asking them to confirm they'd like to be added to your email list.
- Your company adds appropriate customers to its list:
- Customers that respond to the second invitation are added to your list.
- Customers that do not respond to the second invitation are not added to your list.
Double opt-in is the best method for building your email list because it verifies that customers are providing accurate email addresses and provides customers with opportunity to initiate their own subscription to your list.
- Offer an opt-out— Individuals receiving email from your company should be able to remove themselves from your list at anytime. This is best achieved by including the ability to unsubscribe from every email your company sends. Opt-out ensures that individuals are removed promptly from your list when they no longer want to receive email from your company.
- Never purchase or trade email addresses — Email addresses should never be bought or traded. Protect the privacy of your customers. If another company wants to extend a special offer to your email subscribers, send the offer yourself.
About the Author
Winmark Business Solutions (WBS) is a free Web site for small businesses and entrepreneurs containing over 6,000 pages of business-critical information and downloadable tools at www.WBSonline.com. WBS is a division of Winmark Corporation, a multi-brand franchisor with nearly 900 franchise locations in North America. With over 25 years working with small businesses, WBS draws upon years of experience to bring important small business articles, information, tools, forms, checklists, calculators and downloadable forms to the small business owner to help their business grow. WBS contains over 6000 pages of business-critical information all available at www.WBSonline.com.