June 30, 2014

How to Spoil the Spammers

You're receiving emails that you consider to be spam and it's frustrating. As small business owners, we're prone to getting on mailing lists.

Consider that spam is in the eye of the beholder: what is spam to one person, is not to someone else. In Canada, we now have a legal definition of spam which may not match your own perceptions.

As business owners that engage in email marketing, I feel we have to be a bit lenient and open to the efforts of others like us. After all, we know the effort that goes into creating an effective campaign. Before you start reporting fellow business owners as spammers, make sure you know if the email really is spam by the legal definition. In most cases, I encourage you to simply use the unsubscribe mechanism to get off lists. If there isn't one, that's a sign it's spam.

And then there is real spam - we all know what that looks like. Clicking an unsubscribe link might be risky. So here's what you do instead: click the 'Report Spam' button/link in your email software program. This has 2 benefits:
  1. The email address will be recognized as spam in the future and be filtered out of your inbox.
  2. The sender will get blacklisted if enough people flag them as sending spam. This makes their 'job' more difficult.

GMail screen shot - report spam
GMail screen shot

Please, save the 'Report Spam' clicks for those who really deserve it. If you have your email address "conspicuously published" on the web, you are giving implied consent for business-related communications.

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June 25, 2014

Count your Contacts: In or Out?

I get it... this anti-spam stuff is onerous and complicated. So you might be thinking that you’ll send your current subscribers a consent request just to be safe. It can’t really hurt anything, can it? Safe, not sorry, right?

This is a situation where safety has a significant price tag.

Here is an example to show how your current email marketing efforts will be impacted.

Let’s say you have a list of 1000 subscribers. (Keep in mind that you may already have express consent from some of them.)

We’ll be generous and say you get an average open rate of 25% (industry average is 20%). That means that 250 people open your newsletter, but not always the same 250 people.

Out of those 250 who open your email, how many do you think will opt-in? Statistics (and my experience) show that it will be about 30% - in this case, 75 people.

With one swift move you've reduced your mailing list from 1000 to 75. Will you continue to publish a newsletter for 75 people?

And what about those 925 subscribers you lost? Well, you asked for permission and they didn't provide it, so you can’t email them again... even to ask again. Your permission has been revoked.

Before you sabotage all your hard work, take the time to understand how the legislation (CASL) impacts your business. Three-minute news spots and brief newspaper articles do not address all of the exemptions and exceptions – they’re only telling a tiny portion of the story.

It’s a serious business decision, not a mandate.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder June 25, 2014

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June 19, 2014

Re-opt-in: a Messy Word for a Messy Process

It's a word that didn't exist a few years ago... and maybe still doesn't? For those of you still on the fence about whether to ask your current mailing list to re-opt-in before July 1st, here is some information copied exactly from this page of the Government of Canada website:
Under section 66, consent to send commercial electronic messages (CEMs) is implied for a period of 36 months beginning July 1, 2014, where there is an existing business or non-business relationship that includes the communication of CEMs. Note however, that this three-year period of implied consent will end if the recipient indicates that they no longer consent to receiving CEMs. During the transitional period, the definitions of existing business and non-business relationships are not subject to the limitation periods that would otherwise be applicable under section 10 of CASL. Businesses and people may take advantage of this transitional period to seek express consent for the continued sending of CEMs.
You can delay asking your current subscribers to re-opt-in, at least until you understand the requirements and the impact on your email campaign. Put a note in your calendar for early in 2017 to give it more thought - others will have worked through all the kinks by then.

Visit our web page dedicated to this topic for more info: Anti-spam Resources.

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June 14, 2014

6 Tactics to Turn Visitors into Subscribers


Getting someone to your sign-up form is one thing. Getting them to actually subscribe is quite another. To make that happen, here's what I recommend:
  1. Have a sign-up form on its own page, or at least immediately visible on the web page (aka landing page) where you send people to subscribe. (read more about this)
  2. Avoid other calls to action that may distract your potential subscriber. (read more about this)
  3. Clearly describe what’s in it for your subscriber and how often they’ll get it. (see our sign-up as an example)
  4. Provide examples via links to past issues in your archive. (our archive)
  5. Include a brief disclaimer that you won't sell or share contact info.
  6. Ask only for an email address unless you have a pressing need for more information. The more you ask for, the less likely someone will be to sign up.
With the new Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL), building our mailing lists via 'express' consent will become increasingly critical to email marketing success.

June 10, 2014

Current Contacts and CASL


If the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) has you upside down in confusion, you're not alone.

The part of CASL that seems to be the most confusing for business people is how it affects their current mailing list. The answer is not especially straightforward because the regulations spell out the law... and then there are supporting documents which help to explain what the law means and how to be compliant. By their nature, those supporting documents provide interpretations, and those interpretations will become more explicit as the law is brought into effect. As such, the following is my informed opinion and best advice. (Consider this my disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer.)

To ask your current subscribers to re-opt-in... or not

How many emails have you already received asking you to re-opt-in to a mailing list that you have already subscribed to? Kind of pain, isn't it? How many have you re-subscribed to? I bet not all of them.

Even before you understand the details needed to make an informed decision about asking your subscribers to re-opt-in (or not), you should know the impact of that decision.

If you ask your current contacts to re-opt-in, what percentage of your subscribers do you think will do that? I’ll give you a hint: it’ll be less than your average open rate. You will lose some regular readers, even more of those occasional readers, and all of the people who only remember you because they see you in their inbox when they delete your message. Note that you can only send one message to ask people to re-opt-in. If they don’t, you can’t ask again.

What to do right now... or not

You have until July 1st, 2017, to seek ‘express’ consent from your mailing list. During this 3 year period, if you do not already have ‘express’ consent, it is ‘implied’.

That means you can stop thinking about this decision now. Put an entry in your calendar for February 1st, 2017, to “decide to seek express consent or not”. Five months to decide and act, or not – plenty of time.

This is the advice I'm giving my clients and also following myself: do nothing... at least in the short term. A lot can happen in 3 years: your contacts will change, CASL will become better explained, and maybe your business situation will change, too.

In future articles, I’ll write more about the different types of consent – implied and express – and what you need to know to make an informed decision. For now, you really don’t have to make any decision about your current list. You do need to become compliant with the other aspects of CASL though!



June 5, 2014

The Anti-spam Revolution

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle lately about the new Canadian anti-spam regulations (CASL). Organizations are busy pushing out emails asking us to re-opt-in to their mailing lists before July 1st. Are you wondering what it’s all about? Or are you ignoring it, hoping it will never impact you?

As a small business owner, you should know the basics because, unless you plan to stop doing emails, text messages, and social media posts, your business communication is regulated by the new law. It’s not just about these enewsletters.

First, only commercial electronic messages (CEMs) fall under the regulations. Your message is a CEM if it encourages participation in a business transaction or activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit. Many emails, texts, and social media posts sent on behalf of your business are going to be CEMs.

Now you know that you need to know. Read my blog post CASL Basics for Small Business for a quick overview. You can find lots of information online at fightspam.gc.ca.

These new regulations are not meant to hinder legitimate business in Canada. But they may mean that you have to consider some tweaks in your processes.

Do you realize it’s been 6 years since the National Do Not Call List changed the way many sales people prospect? That was also a big kerfuffle at the time.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder June 5, 2014

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