On July 1st, Canada’s new anti-spam legislation kicked in. If, like me, you interact with companies digitally you probably have been receiving a flood of emails over the last month from various companies asking you to reconfirm your commitment to being open to receiving emails from them.
This is because the Canadian legislation is clear about what constitutes a person providing consent to a company to receive emails from them. Going forward, people on your mailing lists must have provided “express consent”. There is 36 month period where companies can still send to people were they have received “implied consent”. Otherwise companies can’t send emails to people who fall out of these two categories.
Expressed consent means that the prospect or customer has to take a specific record-able action to indicate their agreement to receive mails. Which means going forward business forms (online or paper) need to by default have that little box asking if you agree to receive emails left unclicked, allowing people to do business with us to click them.
I like to use the term Opting-In to describe this type of action. I don’t see this as a problem, because I believe it means these prospects are one step further along the process of being a qualified lead. It may mean the top of the funnel is a little narrower, but the leads that fall into the funnel may be better leads. I think the biggest headache that companies have right now, is not with having to implement an opt-in mechanism going forward, but that they have built up their lists from various sources and can’t prove they have expressed consent (or implied consent for the grace period – see postscript).
E-Mail Lists are good for business
The opening remarks of the legislation do state they are trying to see a balance between protecting people’s privacy and allowing the Canadian online marketplace to thrive. It’s intent is not to discourage companies from using e-mail marketing, it is trying to create a framework where it’s done well.
I personally believe that email lists provide value to customers beyond just promotion of the company. Maybe it’s the form. Or that anti-spam software has helped weed out the bad stuff more and more, so companies have had to provide value to make it through. Or that content marketing has now grown to be an important part of a company’s marketing strategy. Whatever, companies today are focused on providing information and useful content in their email promotions.
At Mesh 2014 at the end of May, I attended a session called Marketing to the Power of One, by Joel Book. An interesting fact was raised. Though social is definitely important for brand awareness and top of mind, email mailing lists still are a top winner in terms of effective conversions to your website. Because it’s hard to actually record all the touchpoints a customer has with you before they make that final decision, perhaps that last conversion is just the nudge needed to push them over the edge where everything else has brought them to the edge. Regardless, it does say that social hasn’t made the email list redundant, it is working alongside of it.
Segment, Segment, Segment
What is also increasing important is to make email lists more and more relevant to your audience by tailoring campaigns to segments of our prospects and customers.
The best way to do this is to create a mechanism where the consumer can self-segment themselves – either by explicitly telling you their interests or through their behavior.
Some companies will explicitly segment their lists into product or interest areas and have people sign-up individually to the sub-list. What is happening more and more often is that companies are using past business behavior to help determine an individual consumer’s interests.
Companies will also use the information from previous touchpoints and buying patterns to tailor what mails go out to which consumers. Examples of this may be found in suggestion type emails from the likes of iTunes, Amazon and even Twitter.
I recently re-affirmed my subscription to an email list, where after subscribing I was presented with a survey that pulled my interests. I don’t know if the company will use my answers for general marketing information or to explicitly segment me to receive information on those interests. Regardless, I saw it as an opportunity to do the later.
Marketing Automation tools and mailing list tools are becoming savvy enough to help with this segmentation, and then to setup campaigns that appear tailored to the individual.
The more relevant the information is to the consumer, the more likely they are to open it and then act on the information. Send them noise and then even if they have opted-in to receive it and it passes through anti-spam filters they are likely to not listen.
CASL definition of Implied consent includes people who have done business with us at some point or have been added to our lists though a business process that requires an opt-out action to not be on the list. Companies have 36 months to transition people to expressed consent and can continue using their existing lists if they are made up of people with implied consent. Companies that are sending re-registration type emails are either getting the job done now or may have lists built up from untracked sources.