With technology being an integral part of day-to-day business communication, people often assume that reaching clients and prospects via email is a no brainer. But take caution and comply with regulation to stay ahead in the game.
Know the law inside out
It is imperative that marketers are fully aware of their legal responsibilities and adhere to best practice to ensure their messages are more than just compliant.
When sending direct marketing by email, businesses must comply with the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), the key piece of legislation relating to email marketing. If a business knows the name of the person who will receive the message, they are also processing personal data and must also comply with the Data Protection Act.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) enforces a range of legislation, including the Data Protection Act and the PECR.
According to the ICO, “The PECR sets out rules for those who conduct marketing by electronic means, and includes requirements for the security and confidentiality of services, the processing of traffic and location data and the use of directories.”
Understand your email camps
Businesses are split into two camps from a PECR perspective. There are corporate subscribers; email addresses belonging to limited companies and PLCs and individual subscribers; sole traders and non-limited companies, which in the eyes of the law, are treated in a similar way to consumers when it comes to email marketing.
Unsolicited marketing emails can be sent to corporate subscribers but an opt-out or unsubscribe option must be included and the sender must be apparent.
The PECR does not protect employees of a corporate subscriber from receiving non-business related offers, though this should be avoided under advertising industry regulations.
The PECR does, however, protect individual subscribers who must not be contacted without prior consent unless details have been obtained in the course of a sale. Even then you may only contact them about your own similar products or services while giving them the opportunity to opt out of receiving further marketing messages each time.
The ICO is able to act if a complaint is received and upheld where unsolicited emails have been sent outside of these ‘soft opt-in’ rules.
Avoid falling foul of the rules
The ICO made headlines in November for levying its first fines so the cost of not adhering to regulations can cost a business dearly, although arguably the impact of ongoing, irrelevant and untargeted emails is equally damaging to a company’s reputation. Ultimately, bad email practice can impact the ability of an organisation to continue to send email marketing campaigns. The key to being a successful and reputable marketer is not to simply adhere to various legislations, but to exercise best practice.
Ensure targeting is robust and relevant
Do your reputation justice by ensuring your email marketing campaigns are strategic, targeted and relevant. Just because you can market to people it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Here are four top tips to consider for intelligent email marketing
1. Don’t waste precious time and money marketing to unsuitable customers/prospects, such as clients who are not interested in your offering or who are not in a financial position to uptake.
2. Ensure your data is current and clean. This will help the chances of getting your messages delivered and there are some revolutionary marketing tools that you can apply to a prospect database to further improve its chances of being well received.
3. Make the most of pre-screening tools to help determine whether a product is required and also if it is financially viable for your prospects to act on your product offering.
4. Take advantage of demographic information, to get a bigger return on investment.
Exhaust your resources
A business’ data is a valuable and sensitive commodity so know your legal obligations inside out and adhere to the guidelines of best practice. Make your material interesting and personalised whenever possible.
With the increasing ease at which all emails can be deemed ‘junk’ by the recipient at the click of a button, it has never been so important to ensure all resources are exhausted to reach the people that can make a purchasing decision about a product or service.
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