OPINION: Golden Rules of Email Marketing

DURBAN – Since many people are dealing with a flood of messages every day, an email must capture attention within a short time.

To engage and retain an audience, some golden rules must be adhered to, and the right tools should be used.

My first golden rule: Never email someone without their consent. Make sure the addresses you obtain are provided voluntarily from people who don’t object to hearing from you. This can be tricky – after all, you’re trying to win business from people who might never have heard of you.

Gathering contacts requires creativity, ingenuity and determination – that’s the marketer’s talent.

Feeling cheeky? If you don’t have someone’s explicit consent, you could take a chance on “implicit” consent but it’s potentially risky. Implicit consent means you might, for example, be referred to someone by another client or mutual acquaintance, or you could research a sector and find their email details via that route – arguably you have a legitimate interest in introducing yourself there.

Make sure the relevance or relationship you’re relying on is clear. Note that using this sort of justification for emailing someone doesn’t usually extend to repeat, regular messages; it usually covers an initial introductory email only, from which you should be seeking consent to stay in touch.

When people consent to receiving marketing from you, they are “opting in”. This is the opposite of the sneaky hidden little pre-ticked box that a user would have to un-tick to “opt out” of marketing. Keep a record of all opt-in agreements. When the Protection Of Personal Information Act is enforced, this will be a legal requirement.

You might also be accused of sending email without consent, and it’s useful to be able to courteously remind your contact of when and how they gave it. Always offer a chance to opt-out or “unsubscribe”. In every email you send, make it clear that the recipient can unsubscribe and include a link that does this automatically.

Contact details are personal and valued. Ensure you maintain your customers’ trust by handling theirs carefully. When collecting email addresses via opt-in, always clearly link to your privacy policy for the information you are gathering. Be honest – if you want to share your customers’ information with third parties, ask for their consent to do this separately, usually via an additional “tick box” on an online form. If you state you will never share or sell their e-mail addresses, ensure you don’t.

My second golden rule: Deliver value. Your message should stand out from the competition because it gives something back to the reader. It might have piqued their interest, made them smile, given them a challenge to solve or offered them special treatment or pricing that has monetary value. Don’t be one of those messages that’s just a tiny billboard about you – make it about them. Show them you value the time they took to read your message and give them just enough to make it worth their while and wanting more.

Next week, I’ll wrap up this series with a look at the leading bulk email tool which will help you create catchy, professional email campaigns that are compliant and secure. See you then!


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