31 May, 2012

Email Etiquette for Businesses

Yes, Miss Manners, there is email etiquette for business.  And it’s a serious one – one imposed by law.  For your email marketing to be successful to customers or prospective customers, it is essential every email your business sends includes the basics.

Everyone who has ever had an email address has received unwanted emails, commonly called spam.

Because email marketing is one of the most efficient and cost effective ways of marketing, you may be considering it for your business. But how do you keep your email marketing from being spam?

In this post, I cover the legal email etiquette rules. In my next post, I will cover some of the unofficial email etiquette rules for businesses – ways to keep your email marketing for your local business effective.

You may have heard of “the CAN SPAM” act. The legislation is from the US, so it is not necessarily applicable to Australian businesses. It does, however provide a standard most Australians have come to expect. In summary, it is:

  • Authenticated sender’s return email address (it has to be a real email address)
  • Include a physical address it was sent from (your business address)
  • Provide a one-click unsubscribe feature
  • Prohibit importing lists of purchased addresses
  • Avoid misleading or illegal information

Email Marketing in Australia

Does Australia have legislation similar to the USA? Yes, and it covers not only emails, also SMS, MMS (mobile phone messages) and instant messaging.
The Spam Act 2003 has three main areas businesses must comply with:

  1. Consent
  2. Identity
  3. Unsubscribe

Consent to be emailed

Consent can be direct or implied.

  • Direct means your recipients gave you permission to message them.
  • Implied is if you have a relationship with the recipient. You can decide because of the relationship with the recipient, they might be interested in receiving commercial messages from you.

Email Sender Identity

As a sender you have to identify yourself clearly, accurately and provide information how the receiver can contact you. This information can be in the “email from”, the body of the message, a website address, or the senderID in a SMS or MMS.
These two categories by default, rule out using email lists from brokers.

Unsubscribe from Emails

This is where I believe the legislation is soft.

As a sender, you only have to provide instructions on how to opt-out. This means you can simply have a sentence at the bottom of a message saying “to unsubscribe, reply to this email with unsubscribe in the subject line”. That in itself is a known tactic used by spammers to collect valid email addresses!

Or you can have a line stating ‘change your preferences’ which then leads you to a place you can unsubscribe. Too often I see this used to ask people to log-in to a website to unsubscribe. Way too hard… Firstly, they have probably forgotten the login information, and secondly, why make it so hard? If someone wants off your list, make it easy!

Emails return on average more than $40 per $1 dollar spent
– Direct Marketing Association, 2010

Email marketing and SMS marketing are not bad or dangerous. They are very effective and financially efficient marketing tools.   But they can be very costly if not done right!