Keeping in touch with contacts and clients via email is one of the most cost effective forms of online marketing. But it’s an activity that can get you into trouble if you don’t do it properly.
Marketing people often talk about “permission” email marketing so what does that actually mean?
1. Why you need permission
Sending bulk emails through your regular email client (e.g. outlook, gmail) is not a good idea. If too many people mark your emails as Spam, you may find all your emails being sent to people’s spam boxes and, in the worst case, your email address blacklisted.
So it’s good practice to use an email marketing provider like Mailchimp, Aweber or Constant Contact (there are many options available).
However, these providers have very strict rules about “permission”. They want to deliver a very high percentage of emails to in-boxes and to do that, they need to be very fussy about who you send bulk emails to.
2. Types of emails
Firstly it’s important to understand the distinction between different types of emails.
These are the “we received your order” and “we shipped your order” type emails that are an important part of ecommerce. They may be automated but they don’t count as marketing emails. It’s OK to add a promotional message to these – e.g. “sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off your next order” – as long as it’s not the main purpose.
Sending individual emails to clients and prospects is also OK. But if it’s a “cold” email – i.e. to someone you haven’t met, then do make sure it’s personalised and tailored to them and not just a “copy/paste” of standard sales text.
Email marketing is when a business sends a commercial message to a group of people by use of electronic email.
Newsletters, information about new products or services, invitations to events – all of these count as marketing emails when you send the same email to several people at the same time.
3. Do I have permission?
What counts as permission to send marketing emails? Here are some typical situations:
- They subscribed through an opt-in box on your website
- They added their email address to a sign-up sheet at an event or conference
- They entered a prize draw at an event and it clearly stated that you would send them updates by email
- You asked them if you could add them to your email list.
- They downloaded a report/white paper/podcast from your (or someone else’s if a joint venture) website and it was clearly stated that you would add their email to your list
- You met someone at a networking event and they gave you their business card
- You got their email address from the attendee list of a networking event
- They made an enquiry about your product/service
- You connected on LinkedIn
- You bought a list of emails from a 3rd party
- You got their email address from their website
- You signed up to their emails
MAYBE – Your customers.
It’s usually fine to add business clients to your list. However, if your customers are consumers or mostly sole traders then it’s best to explicitly ask permission.
When in doubt, best practice is to simply ask them. Or send them a personal email inviting them to sign up. Include a link to the sign up box on your website.
It’s very common to meet someone networking and find yourself on their newsletter list. Just because lots of people break these rules doesn’t mean that you should.
It’s better to send a small number of emails to those who want to receive them than have a huge list of people who delete or ignore your mails every time.