Mind your email marketing manners

Good marketers know that when it comes to gathering information on prospects, permission rules. The European Union is hammering that point home these days with a new set of privacy rules, which are set to take effect May 25.

The rules require marketers to get explicit consent from website visitors before tracking and storing their information, so companies that have prospects across the pond should take note. While the rules apply mainly to companies that use cookies on their websites to tailor ads to visitors, marketers who direct their customers through their websites to read e-newsletters or other marketing messages also need to comply with the law by having subscribers opt in.

The European Union’s get-tough stance on privacy goes back to the No. 1 rule of marketing etiquette: Always ask permission. Remember, just because a guy connected to your LinkedIn profile or exchanged business cards with you, he doesn’t necessarily want your e-newsletter. Ask before collecting a prospect’s information — and don’t even think about buying lists of names from other companies. Sending emails to people on purchased lists can get you blacklisted as a spammer and possibly in hot water with regulators. That goes for both sides of the pond.

Here are a few other etiquette tips for building and maintaining your mailing list the right way:

  • Keep it confidential. When someone trusts you with personal information, honor that trust. Don’t share email addresses or other prospect information with third parties, and post your confidentiality policy on your site.
  • Identify yourself. Send messages from an email address that belongs to a specific person in your company so that subscribers know exactly who’s emailing them.
  • Give them a reminder. If you’ve been collecting email addresses for years, some of your subscribers may have forgotten why the heck they’re getting email from you. Add a note to your messages that says, “You’re receiving this email because you signed up for news and offers from XYZ Company.”

  • Make changes easy. Include a link on your messages that allows subscribers to opt out of future messages or update their information. When prospects make changes, send them prompt confirmation that you have completed their requests.
  • Obey the law. The United States has its own laws regarding email marketing, such as using an accurate subject line, including a physical address on the message and giving recipients a heads up that the message is an ad.

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