We’d like to welcome guest blogger Paul Wallbank. Paul is a leading expert in online business and is based in Australia where he is well known as a broadcaster, speaker and author of seven books, including eBusiness, Seven Steps To Online Success. His Future of Business website looks at Internet trends like social media, cloud computing and other web technologies that are changing our industries. Watch out for Paul’s posts every few weeks.
Email has revolutionised how we keep contact with our customers. Before the Internet became common in the 1990s, businesses were stuck with expensive and awkward mail outs.
With email, newsletters became easy and almost free to send, but unfortunately with email came an explosion in unsolicited commercial messages known as “spam”.
By 2009 over 120 billion spam messages a day were being sent – 97% of all email traffic. As a response to the spam tsunami, governments around the world enacted a range of laws to slow the flood.
Many of these laws carry serious penalties today and apply to most businesses, so it’s important you know where your newsletter stands in the regions where your business operates.
Anti-spam laws around the world
In the United States, the Spam-CAN Act provides penalties of up to $16,000 for an infringement, luckily the act’s provisions can be summarised in seven principles. An interesting aspect of the US law is that a business isn’t required to have the recipient’s permission before sending information.
Australia’s Spam Act has been in place since 2004 and the New Zealand equivalent was introduced three years later. Both are stricter than the US law as businesses have to seek consent before they can send out emails. In Australia there have been several convictions over the act.
The UK doesn’t have a formal spam act and instead relies on European Union privacy directives. Interestingly, the various interpretations of those EU rules mean a business email may have a different legal status in each European country.
Obeying the law
So how do businesses avoid being caught out by the rules? The four basic principles below should guide you when sending business emails and ensure you don’t fall foul of the spam cops.
Get permission: The whole idea of sending messages is to get customers to buy your product – which they won’t do if you irritate them or come across as being unethical. So only send email messages to people who’ve asked for information, those who expect it or customers you already have an existing business relationship with.
Don’t deceive: Be clear about who you are and what the topic of your email or newsletter is. Don’t try to trick readers using either the subject line or email address. Again, if you come across as unethical, you’re not encouraging customers to buy from you.
Identify yourself: Provide clear contact details for your business. Always include a phone number and a street address to comply with the laws and improve your credibility as a trusted supplier.
Make it easy to opt-out: No matter how useful and informative your newsletters are, there’s going to be some who just aren’t interested, so provide a clear and easy way for customers to remove themselves from your mailing list. This is also a common clause in all the laws.
Email management tools
While the rules are simple, managing subscribers and removal requests can be time consuming and fiddly, and the sending restrictions many Internet providers apply to business clients to avoid spam can be irritating.
For most businesses, using a newsletter service like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor is a much easier way to comply with the rules while reducing management time. Both of these services also have the advantage of plugging into Xero’s contacts through OneSaas or you can manually export contacts between platforms.
Email services make it their job to comply with the CAN-Spam, Australian, New Zealand and European regulations so your business will stay out of trouble.
The newletter is a great tool because our customers sometimes forget about us in a busy world. Making sure your emails are not labelled “spam” is not only good for our marketing, but avoids costly fines.
We’re keen to hear how you’ve used email to grow your business, any fights you’ve had with spam and how email marketing has been incorporated into your accounting and contact management services.