The recently enacted Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is causing a “Chicken Little” effect for marketers everywhere. Yet it’s actually a good reminder that permission-based marketing is the only way to go.
As of July 1, 2014, CASL now requires anyone sending commercial email to or from a Canadian computer or network to obtain “opt in” consent before they hit the send button. Otherwise, the sender could be facing penalties up to $10 million. A bold move by the Canadian government, this is one of the toughest anti-spam laws in the world, representing an industry shift that's likely to result in many positive outcomes.
Luckily, this doesn’t apply to you because you’d never spam customers, right? Besides, you don’t send email to Canada, so what does it matter? The answers to those two questions are “Actually, you might” and “Yes, it does.”
You may not think you’re an email spammer, but if you’ve added customers to your contact list without permission, you’re potentially sending unwanted emails. Even if they’ve made a purchase or visited your website, you still need to get your customer’s approval before you send them any marketing emails. Otherwise, you risk your reputation, which limits your ability to grow your business.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Even if you don't currently do business in Canada, CASL is a welcome reminder to get reacquainted with the following five principles and best practices of permission-based email marketing:
1. Engage, don’t sell. Customers tune out overt sales tactics but will tune in when the conversation and content is about their specific interests and needs. Figure out what your customers' hot spots are and address their needs and concerns.
2. Prioritize quality over quantity. Resist the temptation to acquire a massive list of customer contacts—in this case, more is not necessarily better. Instead, focus on cultivating genuine relationships with your customers. This way, your emails will be received as if they’re coming from a trusted friend and are more likely to get a response.
3. Write great content that inspires customers to share and subscribe. You don’t have to be the best writer; you simply need to provide original or relevant material that’s not widely known and demonstrates your expertise. If you feature fun facts, eye-catching images and insider tips along with compelling offers, your customers will look forward to seeing your name in their inboxes. Also, don’t forget to add a social sharing bar so customers can easily pass along your content to their friends.
4. Segment your list. Not all your customers have the same interests and needs, but if you’re regularly engaging them, you know which content will be more popular with certain groups of subscribers. To boost responses and referrals, segment your list and develop content that speaks directly to the interests of those groups.
5. Don’t overstay your welcome. To maintain the privilege of being able to contact customers via email, limit your outreach to no more than one email per week.
Remember, it’s just as easy for customers to subscribe as it is for them to unsubscribe, so this is one area where moderation is key. You’ll grow your list and your business if you always provide relevant and valuable content. And it goes without saying that you should never compromise your customers' contact information.
If you follow these simple rules, you can be confident your emails will achieve higher customer engagement—and you'll have no reason to fear the threat of fines, no matter how high they may be.
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