From Constant Contact: Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), Bill C-28, may not be in effect until early 2012, but that doesn’t mean that small businesses and organizations should wait to make sure they are prepared for the new legislation. Marketing advisor Constant Contact®, Inc. is offering its insights to help small businesses and nonprofits across Canada – as well as any others communicating with people in Canada – prepare for compliance.
“The general guidelines set forth by Canada’s new anti-spam legislation actually mirror what Constant Contact has been promoting for years—the ‘best practices’ that make email and social media marketing most effective,” said Lisa Kember, Constant Contact regional development director for Toronto. “By following best practices, marketers not only set themselves up for success, but also put themselves in a better position to comply with the law when it goes into effect.”
The Canadian Government passed CASL in December 2010 to establish a regulatory framework for permission-based marketing, including email marketing, social media marketing, text, and other electronic messaging. This framework will protect electronic commerce in Canada, deter damaging and deceptive forms of spam, such as identity theft, phishing and spyware, and drive out spammers.
“Education and awareness are key to ensuring that organizations are proactively evaluating their contact list collection methods and practising permission-based online marketing,” said Guy Steeves, Constant Contact regional development director for Vancouver. “With or without the legislation, there are many things that small businesses and organizations can do now, and we want to be sure they know we’re here to help.”
Following are 10 permission-based online marketing best practices that small businesses and organizations can use to spruce up their marketing efforts and prepare for CASL:
1. Be Respectful – Ask for permission to communicate with your contacts. Some email marketers have operated for years with implicit consent to use an address obtained through relationships with customers or clients, but this will no longer be enough once the new legislation goes into effect. There will be a grace period for obtaining explicit consent through opt-in, however anyone who has gathered their contacts with implied consent will eventually have to convert them to explicit. Start gathering explicit consent from your new and existing contacts now so that you are ahead of the game.
Also, recognize that permission can be given, but it can be taken away too. Make sure every email you send has the option for the recipient to unsubscribe or “opt-out.” Interests may change over time and communications may no longer be valuable to a given subscriber. Those subscribers are entitled to withdraw their permission at will.
2. Be Specific – When people sign up for your email list, allow them to select—precisely—their areas of interest (e.g., newsletters, sale notifications, new product or service announcements, event invitations). You can make subscribers feel more comfortable by specifying what they will receive and when they will receive it (e.g., “Sign up for Our Weekly Concert Announcement”). Also, be sure to identify yourself to your subscribers in the “From:” line, and use the name they recognize most easily – your name or your company name.
4. Be Straightforward – Remind recipients why they are receiving an email from you. Whether they are a valued customer, a prospect who expressed interest, or a client you want to keep in touch with, the reminder will enhance recognition of your business and put your email into context, thus differentiating your communications from unwanted email.
5. Be Interested – Are your email communications adding value? Is the frequency right? A survey is an inexpensive, easy, and immediate way to find out how your customers really feel about your company and your email communications. So, when you do a survey, don’t forget to ask how your customers feel about your emails.
6. Be Current – People change ISPs, jobs, and email addresses frequently. Often, you’ll be the last to know. Ask for updated information and give subscribers an easy way to change their email address. In addition, provide a way for your subscribers to change their profile, interests and preferences to help you target the right content for the right audience.
7. Be Considerate – Respect the privilege of communicating with your customers and prospects by taking care not to communicate too often. Gratuitous emails are not met with gratitude. Think carefully and plan how many, and what kind of communications you send to your subscribers.
8. Be Diligent – Some subscribers will reply to an email to unsubscribe instead of using the automatic unsubscribe link. Monitor your inbox for unsubscribes and complaints, then make sure you remove unsubscribe addresses right away and take action on any grievances.
9. Be Observant – Look at your reports! There’s a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. Always pay attention to how many people are unsubscribing from your emails. If you are losing more than .5 percent of your subscribers per month, take a look at all of the elements of your campaigns, make sure you’re following the other nine tips, and make adjustments where you’re falling short. Opens and click-throughs can also indicate where you might be missing the mark.
10. Beware – Beware of strangers bearing lists! Permission is not transferable. Today, subscribers want to receive email from those companies they have subscribed to, not an unknown third party. If anyone claims you can “Blast your ad to over 1,000 safe addresses for only $5.00!” or “Buy a CD with 10,000,000 email addresses for only $99!” this is too good to be true. These lists are not permission-based—they are spam lists.