Rather than fighting or resenting new laws such as the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and Protection of Personal Information Bill, marketers should embrace them as an opportunity to bring best practices to their e-mail marketing campaigns.
That's the word from Cordell Brewer, marketing director at TouchBasePro. He says that the experience of other industries across the world and over the years shows that increased regulation leads to more mature and effective business practices that benefit companies as much as consumers.
"Companies become more successful when they embrace laws and good practices that are meant to protect consumers," says Brewer. "This will be true in e-mail marketing, too, because the regulation and discouragement of unwanted or unsolicited commercial mailing will work in the favour of legitimate marketers."
Brewer says that marketers who embrace best practices already follow an opt-in permission based direct marketing because they understand that the less spam there is, the less clutter and annoyance their customers have to deal with.
Clients will be more likely to opt-in for marketing e-mails if they believe their data will not be sold on to spammers and that they will be able to opt out whenever they want to.
In addition, bulk mailers that do not send e-mails to people who don't want them or never asked for them have better relationships with ISPs and e-mail services such as Gmail. That means their legitimate mails are reported as spam less often, and have a better chance of getting through spam filters to the users inbox, says Brewer.
Brewer maintains that the most significant change to e-mail marketing regulation introduced by the CPA is the mandatory compliance with an official "do not contact" list that will pre-emptively block direct marketing to consumers who put their names on the list.
Also significant is the CPA's tighter standards for data collection, which make it mandatory to receive active (rather than passive) opt-in permission from consumers.
Brewer says that there is a need to differentiate between e-mail subscription services (such as news and finance update subscriptions) and direct e-mail marketing. E-mail subscription services that do not fall within the CPA's definition of "promotion" are not subject to regulations for direct e-mail marketing under the CPA.
The lines between the two may not always be that clear. Another grey area is whether it is acceptable to attach marketing information to electronic bills for customers who have opted out of marketing e-mails.
Brewer says that where companies have doubts, the rules they should apply include "don't annoy the customer" and "ask permission rather than forgiveness".
"E-mail marketing is not just about getting your product offers in front of the consumer's eyeballs," says Brewer. "It also important to provide a brand interaction that consumer’s value and enjoy. That means avoiding any practices that will lead to spam complaints."
TouchBasePro recommends asking all customers to opt-in before sending communications. Data sourced from list brokers must be thoroughly audited to ensure that one has permission to send commercial mail to consumers on the database.
To conform to the Act, companies should provide consumers on e-mail database with an easy to use opt-out mechanism that reliably removes them from all direct communication channels and databases.
Brewer adds that marketers who are following good practices will have no problems complying with the CPA. Those that are not yet following these practices will find that following them leads to better customer relationships when they implement them.
"The adoption of stricter legislation regulating e-mail marketing in the United States and Europe preceded a very strong growth curve in e-mail marketing spending in these countries," concludes Brewer.
"Strong but sensible, regulation of electronic direct marketing leads to better quality e-mail campaigns, which translates into increased success levels for marketers. Marketers should not fear these laws, but see them for the opportunity they are."