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The Fundamentals of Email Marketing

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"Marketers are granted access to inboxes by securing permission and maintain it by sending relevant emails."

 - Chad White, Author of Email Marketing Rules and Lead Research Analyst at Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud

In his recent book, Email Marketing Rules (2nd Edition), Chad White outlines the best practice steps every marketer should follow for email marketing success. Most email marketers I know follow Chad - he's been writing about email marketing trends and best practices for years and is frequently referenced on the subject - so I didn’t hesitate to pick up his latest book.

With Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) coming into effect earlier this year, many businesses have been taking a closer look at their email marketing practices, particularly in the area of consent.

In fact, consent or permission, is such a fundamental component of email marketing that it's the focus of Chad's first 11 rules (out of 120). But permission in itself is not enough anymore. Our inboxes today are flooded with email; some of it from friends and family, but a lot of it from marketers and companies we do business with. It's why many email providers like Gmail have started segmenting and categorizing emails into different buckets to ease the burden on users and give them more control over their inbox.

So while permission will get you to the inbox, it doesn't mean it will get you read. The name of the game today is relevance. Even customers that have given you permission won't hesitate to unsubscribe or hit the "Report spam" button if they continue to be disappointed with the relevance of your emails to them.

Let's take a look at Chad's 11 fundamental rules for email marketing today:

  1. Follow the law, but recognize that doing so gives you no protection from spam complaints or other negative reactions.

    Remember relevance. And remember that if you are sending emails to international subscribers, you need to follow the rules of their country as well.

  2. Make sure consumers are aware that you are adding them to your email list.

    Don't bury permission in terms and conditions and don't pre-check a subscribe box on a contact form or contest entry or anywhere else you collect email addresses.

  3. Never make an email opt-in mandatory for a customer interaction.

    You can't force it! So don't make it mandatory for entering a contest or buying a product, etc.

  4. Treat new subscriptions as conditional on the subscriber engaging with your emails.
    Perhaps they signed up just to get a free download or the emails are just not what they expected. Whatever the reason, if a subscriber doesn't engage with the first three or four emails you send them (depending on your frequency), send a final one asking if they want to stay on your list. If you get no response, take them off.

  5. Make unsubscribing easy, taking no more than two clicks, and honor opt-out requests immediately.

    If you're using an email service provider (and you should be) then this process is pretty standard. Just make sure your unsubscribe link is easy to find and easy to click.

  6. Accept that permission expires when a subscriber hasn't engaged with your emails in a long time.

    While CASL states that you have permission (where express consent was given) until the subscriber withdraws it, recognize that not everyone will unsubscribe even when they are no longer interested in your emails. Determine a timeframe that makes sense for your business and then remove inactive people.

  7. Accept that permission grants are limited to the email address offered, even if you know one of their other addresses.
    Most of us have more than one email address - work, personal, etc. Unless a subscriber has updated their details with you, you can only send to the address that was used to subscribe.

  8. Accept that securing an opt-in to another channel doesn't constitute permission to reach a consumer via email, too.

    They may be a Facebook friend or LinkedIn connection, but that doesn't give you permission to add them to your mailing list. Instead, use these channels to invite them to subscribe.

  9. Don't share email addresses with other brands within your company.
    Instead, provide a preference centre where subscribers can select which lists they want to be on.

  10. Don't buy email lists or barter for email addresses.
    Just don't. Period.

  11. When renting an email list, the list owner should never share the list with the renter.
    Some companies will send out messages to their mailing lists on behalf of their advertisers or partners, but the list remains theirs and is never shared directly with the third party.

While it may be tempting to grow your list with email addresses you've gathered from other methods of contact that may constitute implied consent, you are focusing on a metric (number of subscribers) that is not going to move your business forward. And in fact, could get it in trouble.

Instead you should be focusing your efforts on developing an email marketing strategy that is going to be both attractive and relevant to your target audience and if executed well, will result in a strong and healthy list of subscribers that are engaged with your business.

Thanks to Chad White for permission to use excerpts from his book, Email Marketing Rules.


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