Thanking our government for anything is just not in my DNA. So speaking on behalf of my e-mail inbox, I’d like to give kudos to Ottawa for the anti-spam legislation it put into effect on July 1.
You’ve probably heard about the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL). It applies to commercial electronic messages sent to or from computers and devices in Canada. Before marketers can hit the send button they need to do three things: they have to identify themselves, they have to offer a way to opt out of similar messages in the future, and they must obtain the consent of their intended victim.
The good news is that the legislation is working. The bad news is that it has created chaos for companies that use e-mail for sales and customer communications.
That newsletter you blindly pump out every week? Do you really need the OK of everyone on your list? That prospect who gave you a business card—does that count as consent? And what’s your list going to look like now that there’s an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of your e-mails?
Giving people a way to lighten the load in their inbox can be an opportunity for marketers who embrace a more responsible way of doing business. It reminds me of all the security initiatives in the post-9/11 era. At the time, their cost and aggravation made me loath Big Government even more than usual. But when all was said and done, I realized that playing by tougher rules gave our company a huge competitive advantage. This law is no different.
As you ponder the fate (and legality) of your e-mail contact list, you might want to consider the following:
1. E-mail is not dead
Don’t believe the hipsters who say e-mail is dead. It may take more work to use it as a marketing platform, but e-mail remains an accepted and trusted way to communicate, move documents, and archive correspondence. The challenge is to find the most effective way to get the message out, whether it’s by e-mail, social media, or some other means of direct marketing. One size does not fit all!
2. Vanilla tastes bad
Your marketing department might shoot me for saying this but the reason people ignore your e-mail marketing is because it’s bland. It’s vanilla.
Too much direct-marketing content is self serving and just not useful. It has no texture or flavour. You have to give people a reason to consent to receiving what you have to say. Inject opinions and personality into your content. I certainly don’t have all the answers but in my writing I try to educate, engage, and entertain. If you piss off the odd person, so be it. You’ll get a much better response by serving pumpkin cheesecake instead of vanilla content.
3. The new close
Every e-mail marketing strategy must involve the sales team. Once the new carmel chocolate crunch e-mail plan is developed someone has to “close” the customer. Convincing the decision-maker that your new and improved material is worth receiving will be a challenge. But don’t fret if he doesn’t sign on the dotted line. There are lots of ways to engage customers. Have a frank discussion to determine what form of communication works best. At the very least, asking people for their consent to send information shows that you respect them and their time.
4. Behind the scenes
The work really starts once your contacts consent to receiving your e-mails. There are excellent e-mail marketing services that can help you build campaigns, manage lists, and provide a treasure trove of data. E-mail open rates and click-throughs will give you incredible insight into what’s important to customers. If no one’s reading the “Commentary from the C-Suite” column it might be time to replace it with something that adds value. Sorry, Mr. President.
Canada’s anti-spam legislation isn’t an obscure law, nor was it snuck onto the books. There’s been a lot written about it and e-mail marketing companies have done a good job educating people about how to comply. The Canadian government has plenty of material online, too (try fightspam.gc.ca or www.crtc.gc.ca).
I was upset when I first heard about the anti-spam law, then I was relieved once it became clear it applied to unsolicited junk mail and not my favorite canned lunch treat. Long live Spam!
Mike McCarron was one of the founding “M”s in MSM Transportation before the company was purchased by the Wheels Group. Based in Toronto, he currently works for Wheels in mergers and acquisitions and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Mike on Twitter @AceMcC.
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