Playing by the Rules
CALIFORNIA LAW recently defined three types of acceptable e-mail use. Companies can send e-mail to:
1. Consumers provided that the marketer identifies the message as commercial e-mail by beginning the subject line with “ADV.”
2. Consumers who have given permission via an opt-in.
3. Consumers with whom they have a prior business relationship.
While these rules aren’t overly restrictive, similar legislation is coming down the pike nationally, and companies that choose to prospect or communicate with existing customers should be prepared to comply, now. Which of these three methods should they use? It depends on the goal of the campaign, but mostly success relies on the effectiveness of the execution. Let’s look at these three types of acceptable e-mail and how marketers can use them.
Mark E-mail Messages ADV
Marketers who send messages to non-opt-in, permission-based rented lists may not run afoul of regulations if they clearly label their messages “ADV,” but they may still get in hot water with consumers who perceive these unsolicited messages as spam.
Bill Herp, founder and president of Lexington, MA-based E-Dialog, a direct-response e-mail developer, insists that this spam stigma is becoming less problematic. According to Herp, “The problem with spam is not that it is unsolicited, but that it clutters your in-box with random information that has no relevance to your needs and interests.”
Herp’s company designs precision-targeting e-mail marketing campaigns that shrug at the whole opt-in/opt-out debate. After all, the concept of precision targeting was developed in the off-line world, and many marketers, like Herp, believe that it can be adapted whole-cloth for the online world without requiring additional levels of permission.
The secret, Herp says, is maintaining an open dialogue and using the two-way nature of e-mail to converse with consumers, instead of pushing information at them in the traditional one-way stream of direct mail.