Get Over Your (Lazy) Self: Proper Email Marketing Is Essential Now

Opt In And Out Signpost Showing Decision To Subscribe Or Agree… not only is it essential to have an email marketing strategy (even a simple one),

… it is essential to get it set up right, with an opt-in process and compliance standards that don’t get you in hot water legally!

In Canada, there is a new spam law coming into place July 1 and you have to get on board the “do your email campaign properly” train now! Here is what my email campaign service provider says about the new laws (source: Mailchimp) and here is the Government of Canada source, which you should read wherever you live if you SEND email to Canadians.

It has not been cool to use Outlook, GMail or other email platforms for creating, saving or emailing to a “list” about business matters for a long time. Not only has it not been cool, it’s been borderline unethical and definitely annoying. And not so smart if you want your emails read (odds are your email goes straight in the junk mail box).

But, The Most Essential Reason to Use Email Marketing Campaign Tools

Every other social platform, that is free, is out of your control. You can gripe about Facebook’s wishes to get you to pay, and the flaws of every format, but the truth is it doesn’t matter. You don’t own that space. You get to leverage the poop out of it. You can try the multitude of free angles to get results. You can even pay. But you cannot control what someone else owns.

You can only control YOUR real estate. Your blog, your website, your email list, your email campaigns (your traditional paid marketing)… you control these. And you get out, what you put in.

So, what you must have now, more than ever before, is an email campaign management tool and strategy that is compliant and aligns with your bigger marketing strategy. As a tool, I prefer MailChimp (disclosure: this is an affiliate link, if you try Mailchimp I get bananas or something). Constant Contact, AWeber and others serve the same purpose. You are looking for a tool that feels good, like a nice pair of shoes. It’s a personal choice.

Your Email Marketing Tool Must Allow This One Essential Thing

…a subscribe form for your customers or fans to “opt-in” to themselves (this can be with a link directly to the form in the tool, on your website with some copy & paste HTML code). A “double opt-in” is most common and is for both your protection and theirs.

Compare the 3 different ways I offer the ability to sign up to Truth & Tonic. All 3 are set up the same way and eventually send the registering fan to the same content. But I have the ability to allow them to “comply” legally to get my information. Once set up, I don’t have to do anything else to gain their agreement to receive my emails IF they are clear they are signing up for news. (This is one of the areas of interpretation in the new Can-Spam laws under dissection by every marketing expert. More to follow.)

  • On the sidebar of this page you will see my web form.
  • On this link you will see the same form in a page I created that is linked to from a ‘Sign Up’ button on the home page of this site.
  • On this link you will see the same form right in Mailchimp. I can send this link quickly to someone to sign themselves up.
  • And here is the same form integrated into my Facebook business page.

And yes, I created these forms and set this up myself. I know my way around Mailchimp… but before you say “I can’t”, yes you can! It took me some time to get my flow on how to use the tool. You can too!

And Your Email Marketing Tool Must Include One Other Essential Thing

… an unsubscribe option. This is where your Outlook or Gmail or other old school communication methods fails you.

Human nature often doesn’t mind receiving emails from you if their consent is “implied” but they certainly do mind if they cannot get OFF your list. Your fan deserves the right to opt-out of email as much as they deserved the right to opt-in.

Soon, options for opting-in and opting-out are going to be the most critical legal requirements of digital marketing.

(Yes, that may mean beyond email – it may include mass text and voice marketing too).

How to Ensure Your Compliant Lists Meet New Compliance

If you have a list where your people have subscribed themselves, you have given them an option to unsubscribe on every email you send, you are almost compliant.

There is one other catch. When they subscribed, it has to have been made clear to them that they may receive SALES AND PROMOTION information, not just news. This is where the new Can-Spam law is being dissected, because the difference between sales, promotions, news and general information is not exactly black and white. Sometimes information connects, overlaps and intersects. Know what I mean?

I am currently evaluating the laws, seeing what other marketers and lawyers interpret and will assess as the date gets closer if I need to take any steps to recommunicate with my list and reaffirm their subscription and why they are there. I certainly do not often send sales updates, but I certainly do want to be able to, within compliance, when I have a new program to share! You will too. We gotta do this thing up right, friend.

Essentially, from what I can surmise so far, there is no assurances yet on how to ensure compliance has been met on existing lists, because there are grey areas to be clarified yet. So be sure to stay attune to the resources and interpret to suit your needs well!

How To Play Catch Up On Your Not-So-Compliant Lists

The good news is you have a few months to get your ducks, erhm lists, in order.

If you are not already using an email marketing campaign tool to host the names of your customers, champions and fans, but you have them in a list of some kind, here are two options:

1. Export that list to Excel and import into Mailchimp (or other).

Then send them an email from that list letting them know with complete clarity that you have upgraded to a formal email marketing tool. Give them a message kind of like this:

Hello! I am excited to tell you I have upgraded to an ‘official’ email marketing tool. I believe I have previously had your implied consent to send you business news, sales opportunities and occasional updates about (your business name). I would love to continue communicating with you via email so please consider staying on this list your express consent for receiving sales and news from me. However, if you wish to unsubscribe, that is totally fine and now easily down by clicking the unsubscribe button below! You can always follow me on Facebook (insert link) or Twitter (insert link) or (insert your social networks) to keep up with my news too!

Warning: When you import a new list into an email marketing campaign tool, odds are you will have unsubscribes. That’s NOT the warning (that’s totally expected and completely fine… do not take it personally). The warning is if there are a statistically large number of subscribes (you are subscribing them) and then unsubscribes all at once you will likely get red flagged by the system. This could put your system on pause for a bit and you might be contacted. No problem! You simply explain that you had consent from your list on a different system and you decided to switch services and importing your list caused the strange activity as a one-off.

Deadline: When the new Can-Spam law comes into place July 1 in Canada, this option sets you up for question. This option has some marketing ethics associated with it. Essentially you are subscribing people to a list with no consent or implied consent. Implied consent is OKAY but not as safe as them giving complete consent themselves, by opting themselves in (whereby their IP address is logged when they register, proving they signed THEMSELVES up if ever disputed).

However, if you are certain you DO have implied consent, then this also becomes the most ethical option if you are very transparent with an invitation to unsubscribe if they do not want to be on your list.

2. Email your list from Outlook or email account you currently use.

Create your new list in Mailchimp or another tool, setting up a form like this one, and then send it to your list in Outlook (or whatever) for the last time! Include a message like this:

Hello! I am excited to tell you I have upgraded to an ‘official’ email marketing tool. I invite you to ‘officially’ opt-in to receive business news, sales opportunities and occasional updates about (your business name). I would love to continue communicating with you via email but will no longer send you group messages via my current system to adhere to compliance laws and give you the option to unsubscribe with greater ease, if you ever wish to. You can always follow me on Facebook (insert link) or Twitter (insert link) or (insert your social networks) to keep up with my news too! Here is the link to subscribe to (your business name) sales offers and news. I promise, I’ll only email when I have something specific to share!

Warning: As stated above, it’s probable emails coming from Gmail or Outlook or other email accounts are landing in junk email boxes, not inboxes. And people, even your biggest fans, are full of good intentions but lazy actions. Odds are in this option your invitation to subscribe will get lost in their junk or adhered to in low numbers. This is the most ethical option for subscriptions, but not the most effective.

No matter what, you are playing catch up. That’s the bad news. The good news is, you have a little bit of time and the benefits are fabulous once you do! You can create and track professional campaigns and take your marketing savviness up about 200 notches!

Okay, so now your completely overwhelmed. I get it. That’s the life of an entrepreneur. And this is your most important next step to take. I can help if you need it. Just say the word!

(My marketing is Powered by MailChimp, mochas and lots o’ mojo.)

This post is not to be used as legal advice. Please review the new Canada Anti-Spam Law (CASL) to take responsibility of your compliance and ability to meet legal standards.

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