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By Sharlene Tee

Spam: I like the canned product (yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve had it before) but, the email variety? Not so much.

In truth, marketers hate spam. We all know what it’s like to receive unsolicited marketing emails that aren’t relevant to us, arrive too often, and jam up our inbox.

I spend a lot of time crafting creative email campaigns for my clients. I want their recipients to be happy to receive, open and read the emails, because that’s what builds customer loyalty and advocacy, and ultimately drives sales.  However, not all businesses operate with the same guiding principles.

Australia introduced the Spam Act 2003 to regulate commercial emails and other commercial messaging services. Failing to comply is not an option; Tiger Airways and GraysOnline learnt the hard way when they were slapped with hefty fines for spamming its customers.

So, how well do you know the Spam Act and how can you use it your advantage and build a happy database of subscribers?

The Spam Act 2003

But before we get to the how, let’s focus on the main requirements of the Spam Act 2003:

1. All commercial electronic communications must contain a functional unsubscribe facility.

The unsubscribe link must be easily located and function for at least 30 days after the email was sent. This rule is inclusive of commercial SMS and MMS messages as well.

2. Commercial electronic communications must not be sent without consent.

There are two types of consent here: inferred and express. Inferred consent means the business has existing relationship with the customer or, there’s a reasonable expectation of receiving promotional messages.Express consent means the customer has confirmed interest to receive messages by filling in a form, ticking a box or agreeing over a phone conversation.

3. All commercial electronic communications must include accurate sender details.

When a recipient reads the email, they need to know the legal name of the company, ABN details, contact details and the sender’s name within the message.

Five ways to build a spam-free marketing list

Here are my top tips on how to build an email marketing database that’s both effective and spam-free:

1. Use the double opt in method.

With email marketing, consent is key. Without expressed permission from the recipient, you could be reported for abuse and blacklisted by internet service providers (ISPs). I love the double opt in method because the recipient fills in a signup form (first opt-in) and then confirms their subscription intent on a follow-up email (second opt-in). This means the subscriber truly wants to receive the email from me and, I have proof. Most email platforms, including Mailchimp, have double opt in facility, so make good use of it.

2. Don’t buy or rent data lists.

It’s tempting to purchase a large list that covers your targeted demographic, but please don’t do this. First off, many of these lists are not up-to-date or, worse, illegally obtained. Sending emails to people who haven’t opted in will often result in high bounce rate, low open rate and ISP blacklisting. An email blacklist is a real-time database that determines if an IP address is sending email that could be considered spam. Many blacklists exist, all with a common goal of keeping spammy emails out of people’s inboxes. Buying or renting list’s a waste of money and effort and could seriously hurt your brand with potential legal ramifications. Put down that credit card and go brainstorm how to grow your list organically through compelling content.

3. Let your subscribers know what to expect.

Just like a good relationship, each party needs to know what to expect. Be clear with your mailing list about what they’ll be receiving, and how often they’ll be receiving it. If you’re sending out various types of emails, it’s a good idea to allow customers to choose which ones they want.

Virgin Australia V mail image

Virgin Australia shows a selection of emails that you may opt in to, with samples on what to expect and when to expect them.

4. Don’t assume consent

Although inference is technically allowed under the Spam Act 2003, don’t assume that a customer wants to receive promotional emails from you just because they bought something or used your service. It’s best to have a tick box or signup form in your online shopping cart, blog page or homepage.

5. Monitor email delivery and engagement rates.

Reputation monitoring is the key to maximising your email delivery rates. Closely monitor your unsubscribe, hard bounce and complaint rates so that you may prevent delivery failures before they happen. Some customers may ask to be unsubscribed to your email list by emailing you directly. It’s important that you remove them from the list straight away, and before the next email goes out.

View the campaign results after each campaign send and look for delivery dips and low engagement rates. This may signal problems with your list, a poor subject line or body content, or send time. Nailing email campaigns is trial and error: test out new subject lines, segment your users, and tailor your content.

6. Watch how often you send out emails.

Some marketers interpret the Spam Act as a limitation on their outbound email marketing campaigns. This isn’t quite true. For example, I’m foodie and I love dining out. If I subscribe to restaurant mailing list, it doesn’t annoy me one bit when I get regular emails about a new chef, seasonal menu or new restaurant locations. This is because I chose to receive them.

However, if you email too often you run the risk of your subscriber marking you as junk for being annoying. Conversely, if you don’t email often enough, subscribers will forget they signed up to your list and may unsubscribe or flag the email as spam. Unsure how often you should email your customers? Get in touch with me.

Your turn

Using the tips above, you can build a solid list of subscribers that are genuinely interested in your products and services. For more information, read the Spam Act 2003 FAQs.

Do you have any tips on how to grow your email subscriber list organically? Share them with us below.

Sharlene Tee

Author Sharlene Tee

Sharlene is an experienced marketing operations strategist, having previously worked for large tech brands including SAP and VMTech. Sharlene specialises in integrated marketing campaigns for market awareness, lead generation and nurturing, and customer engagement and retention. Sharlene holds a Diploma of Marketing from Clarendon Business College and a Digital Marketing Certificate from ADMA Australia.

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