I Didn’t Ask for Your Email: Tips for Email Marketing

email marketingI am an inbox asshole. It’s like my house: you have to be invited in. It’s why I use Feedburner for my blog subscriptions (they have a snazzy double opt-in process). It’s why I have email addresses set up: one for work, one for blog subscriptions and news, one for shopping, one for my bookkeeper…While we won’t talk about te 3,246 unfiled emails in my own account, I do want to talk about some etiquette for email marketing.

Many of us have blogs and newsletters we want to share with our audience. It’s marketing. We want to build those lists. But there are a few things you need to keep in mind on your quest for the golden email marketing pony:

  • How you obtain your email addresses for your lists
  • How you let your subscribers opt in or out of your content
  • Proper messaging per FTC regulations (a pony just died – I hope you’re happy)

Building Your Email Lists

Subscribe boxes are good. If you’re using a website widget from Constant Contact, MailChimp, or another email marketing service provider, they’ll collect all of your email addresses in a database for you (I have one on the top right side of this page). More importantly, they’ll take your subscribers through a double opt-in process (WTF). You know those emails you get asking you to click a link to confirm your subscription to Bass Fishing Daily News? Yeah. That’s a double opt-in. (Double: initial email entry, confirmation following – 2 points of contact). No, you shouldn’t just enter the email addresses out of your Outlook address book. That’s a pretty asshole move and while it’s not illegal in the US, it is in the UK (more information here).

Don’t pee on perfectly good relationships by not asking people if they actually want to be on one. Many of us have seen this with the Facebook Groups function (I didn’t ASK to be on your list vomit!). An idea: send an email with all recipients BCC’d to your Outlook/email contacts. Simply state you’re launching your newsletter/blog and you’d love to send it to them (and mention the frequency with which you’ll be bombing their inbox). Ask them to please reply to you if they’d prefer to NOT receive your emails. See? That was easy.

Now, a bit on double opt-in. This is important if you want to bring your email marketing list INTO a third party app like MailChip or Emma. Most (if not all) email marketing service providers forbid the use of purchased lists and will ask you for the source of your emails if you import a list over a certain size. They’ll also ask you how you got those emails (and some will request to be walked through the process…MailChimp, I’m talkin’ about you, Willis). If you can show that all of your email addresses were obtained through a compliant double opt-in protocol, you’re on easy street. It’s also good business.

I Have to be Able to %^*@&(# Unsubscribe!

This morning, I got an email in my inbox from some list that a conference I attended sold or gave my contact information. Nowhere on the email is an unsubscribe option. This pisses me off. Not only did I not ask for your email, but now I can’t stop getting it. Per CAN-SPAM, “Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future.” It’s like dating: I don’t want to have to change my phone number just because I want to break up with you. Be a friend to your readers. Sometimes we ALL get inbox overload and something’s gotta go. And sometimes, it might be my blog. Or yours. Make unsubscribing easy: easy to do and easy to find on the email. If I have to hunt for it like a lick of sense in Sarah Palin’s brain, you’re doing it wrong.

$16,000 Mistakes

Are you making one? You probably are if you’re not using a credible email marketing program like MailChimp, Emma or the sort (yes, I know there are others). There’s a thing called the CAN – SPAM Act (and it’s a #$%&^*(* LAW), and it applies to most of you out there if you’re selling goods or services (that makes you a commercial website in most cases). For blog owners, most services you use to burn your feed handle all of this for you. However, if you’re in doubt, here’s the exact text:

The law defines commercial messages as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites.

Want to find out if your messages have to comply to CAN-SPAM guidelines? This site has the qualification criteria. (Yeah, that’s the FTC website.) There are plenty of emails that don’t have to comply with CAN-SPAM guidelines, but honestly, why wouldn’t you? Here are the basics:

  • Say who the email is from. This means a valid name for the sender, no hinky-dinky switcheroos.
  • Say what the email is about. No misleading subject lines.
  • Selling something? You must say it’s an advertisement.
  • Say where you’re located. That means an actual mailing address. Yep.
  • Opt-out options. People must be able to fire you – and easily.
  • Opt-out compliance. You have to respond to opt-out request within 10 days of a request being made. (Most email marketing service providers offer instantaneous, one-click unsubscribes…so nice. I wanna pet it and buy it a dog toy.)
  • Oversight. Just because you hire someone to do your email marketing doesn’t make you not responsible if they eff it up straight to H.

The Bottom Line

If people didn’t ask for your email, you’re going on their shit list when they get it. Be a friend and a good business person and, while it might take more time, build your email marketing lists the right way. If people want to break up, let them. Unsubscribing should be easy. If you’re selling something in your email, you have to comply to CAN-SPAM. Ask permission to use someone’s email address. Tell them HOW you’re going to use it if you’re lucky enough to get that sonofabitch (it’s the modern equivalent to the inside line from telemarketing/inside sales days of yore).

Relationships are difficult enough to build as it is without pissing on the ones you’ve already built. Respect your relationships – and that means their affiliated inboxes as well.

15 comments
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Terri Orlowski
Terri Orlowski

Just the other day I got an email from some crazy doctor from where I used to live. And there was no unsubscribe option - she just BCC'd a bunch of people from her regular email program or whatever. So I sent her a nice email back and asked her to remove me because I didn't ask to be put on her list. Her response was that it was okay since my email address was listed on the directory website for a group I belong to. I was, and still kind of am, shocked at her audacity. Just because I have an email address somewhere on the Internet doesn't mean I want to get email from you. Er, her. Grr.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I will see your Grrr and raise you a Hisssssssssss...with a smack in the wings. That's like the rationale that just because you can see the sofa through my front window, you think you've got the right to not knock, waltz in and sit down for a spell.

PJ Mullen
PJ Mullen

Like you I have several email accounts, one specifically for all online purchasing and online banking/financial type stuff. What drives me absolutely bat shit crazy is when I start getting emails from some random online retailer with their latest specials and other miscellaneous bullshit that I never signed up for and don't want. I'd understand if they asked me to opt-in to their newsletter at the end of the transaction or if it was part of some rewards program. Most of the time it is not and they make it difficult as all hell to unsubscribe. I love how Chris Penn makes his newsletter unsubscribe obnoxious. The box containing the link was hot pink and now it is a picture of him telling you the click here to unsubscribe.

Terri Orlowski
Terri Orlowski

I am entertained by the variety of ways Chris has made his unsubscribe link more obvious each time. And still entertaining to those of us that want to keep reading his brilliance.

The Redhead
The Redhead

That Chris Penn is wicked smaht. LOVE IT.

PJ Mullen
PJ Mullen

And your reply is wicked pissah. Makes me a little homesick for Beantown.

LBelgray
LBelgray

OK, the worst is when instead of "unsubscribe," there's a helpful message at the bottom saying "Want to stop receiving these messages? Login to manage your notification preferences." WHAT! That's when I just create a new rule in my own mail preferences that automatically deletes all their messages. The DIY unsubscribe.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I don't want to log in. I want to click. I love email rules :) (nice to see you, Laura)

Barbara
Barbara

Amen sista!! My fave is when you click "unsubscribe" and get a message that says "they'll let you know if you were successful in unsubscribing". Gotcha asshole, how 'bout you just make it happen???

jim
jim

Biggest e-mail pet peeves (and I work for a company that provides bulk e-mail services to ginormous companies, so I feel like I have a little moral ground to stand on here): 1. When I click your Unsubscribe link, it had better do nothing but tell me I've just unsubscribed. Don't make me have to decipher a page with checkboxes trying to figure out which one means "send me no more e-mail period." Don't try to keep selling me receiving e-mails from you -- unless you want to send me free gold bars once a week, nothing you say will foil my nefarious unsubscribe plans. 2. After I unsubscribe, don't decide four months later to start sending me e-mails again. I'm looking at you, Walgreens. 3. If you absolutely must try to sign me up for your e-mails when I first use your service, please make the checkbox for opting out baseball-bat-to-the-forehead obvious -- because if you don't and I miss it, I'm going to assume you signed me up without my permission, and click the Spam button on all of your e-mails. Enough people do that and your e-mail reputation suffers.

The Redhead
The Redhead

What HE said! Thanks for weighing in, Jim!

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