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We’re big fans of email newsletters.  They are a potent marketing tool when managed properly.  It’s not hard to do and you don’t need a lot of technical skills to implement your own email marketing campaign.

There are a host of different email marketing applications available.  Some, like www.ymlp.com and www.mailchimp.com have free versions available.

If it’s so easy, why do so many businesses still get it wrong?  I had a speculative email yesterday from a local pub-come-restaurant.  This particular hostelry hasn’t got the best customer service reputation in town.  So no, we probably weren’t going to rush out and book a table for their Christmas party night.

So what made this email such a major blunder?

  1. It was sent from their normal email address, using the BCC (blind copy) facility.  That makes it looks amateurish at best.
  2. They didn’t use an opt-in list, so it wasn’t targeted in any way.
  3. Instead of putting the Christmas party information on their website to encourage traffic, they sent two attachments with the email.  Would you risk opening a file like that?  No, nor did I.

OK, these are common mistakes and can be forgiven.  But the biggest blunder of all … their mailbox is full!  Any email responses simply bounce back with a message saying … ‘Mailbox disk space quota exceeded, please try again later’.  They clearly didn’t come to WORD-right.

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

And if you’re wondering how I know, I replied immediately asking to be removed from their mailing list.  But suppose I wanted to make a booking …

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Email newsletters are an essential part of your marketing strategy.  They are low cost and help increase your company profile.  However, electronic newsletters and email marketing is subject to legislation and it’s important you understand this and adhere to it.

While you might be forgiven the occasional mistake, companies which persistently breach the law are at risk of being reported to the Information Commissioner.  The penalties are severe, with fines of up to £10,000 levied.

The WORD-right copywriting office received two emails this week which have both broken the rules.  They have prompted this blog offering a little advice to help you keep on the right side of the law.

Email ‘A’ was an unsolicited sales message which came from a company in Kent.  As it had been sent to our generic email address and we have a limited company, the sender had not breached the legislation.

However, the mistake he made was using an online email marketing service which strictly forbids the use of its system for unsolicited sales campaigns.  If reported, his account could be suspended.

If you use an email marketing system, it is important you read and understand the small print in your agreement.  Setting up your email system takes time and effort.  These companies take reports of spamming very seriously and they will act if they see you abusing the system.

Email ‘B’ was a newsletter I recently subscribed to.  However, the company’s whole approach turned out to be unprofessional.  Rather than using suitable software, this newsletter is created in Word and sent as an attachment.

There is an obvious security risk here – viruses can be transmitted via attachments in emails.  But worse still is this company’s practice of entering all their subscriber’s email addresses in the ‘To’ box.  This means I have access to hundreds of private email addresses which I could steal, spam, sell, or otherwise abuse!  Not only is this unprofessional, it is also a breach of the Data Protection act.

This newsletter also breached the email marketing legislation in other ways: there was no unsubscribe option and no contact details on the email.  Last week we sent this company a friendly email, gently suggesting how their email marketing could be improved.   Sadly  today, they’ve sent another newsletter – breaking all the same rules!  I have now emailed asking to be unsubscribed.  I only hope they act on this request – email addresses must be treated with care, and confidentiality is essential.

Email marketing legislation is slightly vague in the UK.  But you still have an obligation to adhere to it.  If you are unsure, it is in your interests to take advice on the subject, or commission a reputable company to manage your email marketing for you – a £10,000 fine won’t do your reputation or your bank balance any good!

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

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