3 Strategies to ensure your email messages
are not perceived as spam

Summary of the Presentation delivered by Heather Maloney to the Corporate Chicks Breakfast, 21st September 2007, Melbourne.

Heather Maloney - email marketing, sms marketing
Heather Maloney presenting to Corporate
Chicks Breakfast
Photo courtesy of ikon images
When you hear any of these phrases: "electronic marketing", "email marketing", "sms marketing" or "bulk messaging" do you immediately think "Spam"?

Or do you think "courteously keeping in touch with your clients and customers, in a value-adding way, leading to long term satisfied clients"?

Let's imagine for a moment the business you represent regularly communicating with your client base whereby:

  • valuable information is provided
  • including news and special offers that are appropriate and useful
  • there's an occasional snippet of humour for some light relief
  • the messages are sent at the right regularity, acting as gentle reminders for important things
  • your contacts look forward to receiving the messages
  • they can be dealt with at a convenient time
  • are easy to file away for future use,
  • easy to send onto a friend or colleague when appropriate
  • over the long term, your contacts are educated and helped to do business more easily with you
  • your contacts wont forget who you are, and feel that they know you and your business very well

Wouldn't that be brilliant!?

Of course, you can achieve similar with printed material, or telephone calls, but these communication modes are much more costly.

Today I'm going to assume that we are all in agreement that electronic marketing is:

  • time and cost effective
  • essential for the way we conduct our business and communicate today
  • is a highly interactive medium, that can be used to virally and exponentially expand the reach of your business

(all topics for their own presentation!)

So back to my original question on who thinks "Spam" when they hear phrases like email marketing and sms marketing [to which most of the room nodded spontaneously].

As part of developing the specification for, and building eNudge, I conducted extensive research on the Australian Spam Act 2003 and anti-spam legislation from a number of other countries. Whilst the Australian Spam Act has a definition of what Spam is, I believe that the most important thing for businesses is to ensure that people receiving your messages don't perceive them to be Spam. None of us want the negative impact on our business or organisation of having our contacts thinking that we are spamming them! Whether or not we are according to the letter of the law.

I will briefly cover three key strategies for ensuring that your contacts do not perceive your messages to be Spam.

Strategy #1 - ensure your contacts really are expecting your emails or SMS messages

There are 3 key things you need to do to comply with the Australian Spam Act - gain consent, identify the sender, and allow people to easily unsubscribe. Included in the Act is a concept of an implied consent. However, I believe that to ensure that your emails are not perceived as spam, you need to make sure that your contacts know they have consented, and are in fact expecting both the messages and the type of content you provide in them.

Here's a simple example of how to get acknowledged consent: you attend a networking breakfast such as this one, and get into a conversation with someone who is very interested in what you do. You ask them "would you like to go on my mailing list to receive monthly information about topic xyz, information about what our clients are doing, and some tips that might help you develop in this area?" Nine times out of 10 the person is going to say yes. Even if they really don't want the messages, or will never have time to read them, whey they arrrive as promised, there's no surprise. He / she will not think they have been spammed, and they will remember the conversation they had with you.

If, however, you purchase something from a website and as part of the purchase there's a pre-ticked box asking you if you want to subscribe to their newsletter, then you may get a surprise, perhaps not so pleasant, when the first newsletter arrives. Not everyone will notice the tick box, or read the text beside it. Best practice is to have the tick box clear by default, and require that the purchaser pro-actively choose to opt in.

Of course, someone who specifically clicks on a link to join your mailing list from the front page of your website (I hope you have your subscribe links on your front page!) will expect to receive your messages as long as you don't send them more frequently than expected and bombard people... which brings me to the second strategy:

Strategy #2 - choose an appropriate frequency and stick to it

You may have noticed in my example of getting verbal consent at a networking breakfast such as this, I mentioned the frequency of the messages (I said monthly). It is important to set the expectation of how frequently you will be sending messages, and to stick to that.

The frequency you choose should be appropriate for your target audience and your topic. There are some topics and audiences that would suit daily updates - stock market information for day traders may be one. However most regular communications will be either fortnightly, monthly or quarterly.

I once made a purchase from an online printing business. They promptly shipped the item that I purchased, and the product was excellent. However, from that day on they emailed me nearly everyday with specials which turned out to not really be a special for me at all. These emails drove me mad fairly quickly; to the extent that I will never purchase from them again, nor will I recommend them to any of my friends or colleagues because I wouldn't want them to be bombarded either. Yes, unsubscribing is easy enough, but being in the electronic marketing business, I like to keep on these lists to see what other people are doing!

So you can see that an inappropriate frequency can lead to a perception that you are spamming people, even though you have obtained consent.

Strategy #3 - add value

As I mentioned with the online printing business, the special offers they provided sounded great in the subject line and content of their email, but each time I went through the process of attempting to order the special, I found that in fact the specials only applied to orders that used their standard illustrations - of course I wanted to place my own logo on their products.

Making your messages appropriate to the target audience, and actually giving them something of value, is critical to keeping people reading your messages, sending them onto others, holding your business in high regard, and continuing to do business with you over the long term.

If you don't add value, people will perceive your messages as spam and they will take the opportunity to unsubscribe, or worse, just delete your messages as soon as they arrive, sight unseen, and never communicate with you about their preferences.

How you add value to your messages will be different for every organisation. The value doesn't necessarily have to be about your business, or promoting a product or service you offer. Consider from time to time promoting another business' service that complements your business. Overall you should be trying to make it easier for your clients and customers to live their lives or operate their business, and make it easier for them to do business with you.

Something I haven't talked about today is how to ensure that the anti-spam software operating in between you and your contacts doesn't flag your message as spam, and either not deliver it, or changes the subject to suggest that the message is spam. That's another separate topic in itself, but using a solution such as eNudge can go a long way to helping ensure your messages are delivered.

If you would like to receive my fortnightly eNudge News, which provides information on how to use email and sms marketing effectively, and shares about how other businesses are using these tools, then please subscribe here.

Heather Maloney
eNudge - the nudge they need!

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