Senin, 27 April 2009

A busy person’s guide to the rules on e-mail marketing


Are you an e-Marketer? Got two minutes? Want a quick refresher?

“Yes, I know the e-mail marketing rules,” I hear you say. “I mean, I think I know them... well I definitely used to anyway.”

If this sounds familiar, you may not be alone.

A recent on-line survey conducted by The Escape Design Agency in Basingstoke, revealed that almost a third of respondents are unclear what their obligations are when conducting e-mail marketing campaigns. Legislation, in the form of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (2003), has been around for some time now, so if you’re unaware of the rules or just a bit ‘rusty’, here’s a handy guide that can be read in just a couple of minutes.

How is e-Marketing defined?

Any message attempting to achieve marketing objectives through the use of electronic communications technology consisting of text, voice, sound or images. Examples include, fax, SMS and telephone as well as e-mail marketing.

Can I target e-mail to individuals without their permission?

You can only carry out unsolicited marketing to individuals by e-mail if they have given you permission to do so.

Are there any exceptions to this?

Yes, sometimes referred to as the ‘soft opt-in’, the rule is relaxed if three exemption criteria can be satisfied:

  • You have obtained the individual’s details in the course of a sale or during negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that person,
  • The messages are only marketing similar products or services, and
  • The individual is given the opportunity to refuse the marketing when their details are collected and, if they choose not to opt out you must provide them with a simple way to do so in all future communications.

What if they want to opt out?

Individuals can opt-out of receiving your e-mail marketing at any time and you must comply with any requests to do so promptly.

What type of reply mechanisms are required to opt out?

In simple terms, a direct one. For example, in the case of text messages (SMS), an individual could opt out by sending a stop message such as, ‘text STOP to 123456’.

Can I charge them to opt out?

The only cost incurred should be the cost of sending the opt-out message.

Can I target e-mail to organisations without their permission?

You don't need to have organisations’ consent since e-mails that do not contain personal information are not specifically regulated under English law. However, you must include a valid address where opt-out requests can be sent.

What if I target a person in an organisation?

If you send an e-mail that contains personal data, for example, then the individual concerned has the right to prevent that e-mail address being used for direct marketing purposes by objecting to the processing of that personal data.

Do I need to provide any information about myself?

Whatever information you provide when you’re targeting either individuals or organisations, you must not conceal your identity. Remember too that the Companies Act requires all business e-mails to include the company registration number, place of registration and registered office address.

What about my e-mail service provider?

You should also check your e-mail service providers’ terms and conditions. These sometimes require a more stringent standard of consent than the general law.

“Whatever information you provide when you’re targeting either individuals or organisations, you must not conceal your identity.”

So what’s good practice?

  • Strive for opt-in marketing wherever possible
  • Provide a statement of use whenever you collect details
  • Make sure you explain clearly what individuals’ details will be used for
  • Do not use consent boxes that are pre-ticked
  • Provide a quick and easy method for recipients to opt out of marketing messages at no cost other than that of sending the message
  • Comply with opt-out requests from anyone who requests it
  • Have a system in place to deal with complaints about unwanted marketing
  • When you receive an opt-out request, suppress any individual or company details rather than deleting them so that you’ll have a record of who not to contact.

Further information

For more details on the rules of e-mail marketing, visit the website of The Information Commissioner's Office, the UK’s independent authority whose role is ‘to promote access to official information and to protect personal information’.

Here at The Escape, we regularly engage in e-mail marketing activities and use a methodology we refer to as ‘Permission Marketing’. This approach is best described as ‘a process of developing customer relationships through permission, refinement and relevance as opposed to more traditional, direct marketing techniques’.

Should you need any advice or assistance with your e-marketing campaigns, then contact The Escape or call us on 01256 334 567 for a chat.


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