How to Keep Marketing Out of the Spam Folder A guide for marketing managers and developers

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1 How to Keep Marketing Out of the Spam Folder A guide for marketing managers and developers Sarah Longfors Web Developer marketing + technology sundog fax: th st s floor 6 fargo, nd

2 So many companies rely on marketing because it s relatively inexpensive, it can reach vast audiences or specific demographics with the same amount of work, and the message can be customized for each individual. marketing is a fantastic tool to reach customers; however, it is challenging to keep your message exciting and relevant and not be marked as spam by your end-users. Marketing managers and developers are working hard to raise return on investment (ROI), and a great way of doing that is to keep the marketing s out of the spam or junk folders and in the customers inboxes where they can be readily seen. This document will discuss what is considered spam, facts about spam s, some ways to ensure commercial s aren t treated as spam, and what the courts and experts expect for spam in the future. What is considered spam? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has worked for years to determine whether an message has a commercial primary purpose and is subject to the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act. (CAN-SPAM Act, 2009) The FTC may have specific terms of what is legally considered spam; however, customers may have a completely different view on the subject. Several companies have surveyed customers to gather data on the public s view of spam, and although each company s results don t match exactly, the percentages may surprise you. a recent study shows that 65% of men and 56% of women define spam as from a company that I have done business with that comes too often. According to InfusionSoft, ( Marketing vs. Spam, 2009) a recent study shows that 65% of men and 56% of women define spam as from a company that I have done business with that comes too often. So consumers don t just think that it s unsolicited s that are spam, but also s they ve signed up for but believe are too frequent. A survey reported by Silverpop finds that 35% of online users consider spam to be from any commercial entity rather than from an individual they personally know. (Spam: What Consumers Really Think, 2009) Thirty-five percent of the population instantly labels any marketing as spam; this is serious business. And in a survey conducted by Epsilon (Get to the Po!nt, 2009) of 4000 users who were asked what they would call spam, a large percentage of customers may feel that a company s s are spam if the customer s information was purchased as part of a list. The findings of this survey showed the following when asked what messages customers believed to be spam: It tries to trick recipients into opening a message (74%) Contains offensive subject matter (68%) Is completely unsolicited (62%) Comes from senders who are unknown to the recipient (61%) Unwanted for any reason, regardless of subscriptions (37%) Comes from companies with which the recipient has done business, but arrives too frequently (27%) Tries to sell a product or service even when the recipient knows the company (24%) Lesson: it may be best not to bombard prospective customers with offers, promotions and newsletters; our inboxes are seen as personal space and we don t want that invaded. Only sending highly relevant content and keeping the users looking forward to seeing your s rather than feeling overrun by them is one way to keep your subscriptions high and users interested. Facts about spam So what are the effects of spam? According to one BBC news report (Spam Produces 17m Tons of CO2, 2009), an estimated 62 trillion spam s are sent globally every year. That s an incredible number; it s no wonder consumers are suspicious of marketing s. And this isn t just an annoyance, these spam s are causing environmental problems as well. The same article explains that each year, spam uses more than 33 billion kilowatt-hours of energy. That energy could provide power to 2.4 million homes. Not only is it a waste of resources, but there are more than 17 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually because of it. In other words, if spam filtering was even 75% effective

3 at removing strictly unsolicited s, not forcing end-users to sift through s to retrieve messages accidentally marked as spam, and remove true spam from their inbox; it would be the equivalent of taking 2.3 million cars off the road. Spam s have an effect on the future of our planet; keeping them to a minimum may be more important than the public realizes. Ensure your commercial s aren t treated as spam One of the simplest ways companies can assure their s stay out of spam territory is to begin with reliable lists. Purchasing customer lists from unreliable resources is a sure-fire way to get low return. It is so simple to send s to specific segments of users, it should be part of every campaign to ensure only those consumers who would be interested in the campaign or newsletter will receive it. It doesn t make good business sense to send a very specific offer to a non-specific group. For example, it is not in a client s best interest for a marketing to be sent to buy a new car if they are aware this customer purchased a vehicle in the last few months. However, if a client has a list of customers whose leases or warrantees are ending soon, it s reasonable that list of customers would have a higher return because the timing would be more appropriate, therefore not wasting your marketing dollars on uninterested customers. Sometimes a business buys a consumer list from one of the many companies who collect demographic information, including addresses. This can be a quick and simple way to start a list of subscriptions and it can be vastly successful, as long as the information is reliable and the customers whose s are purchased fit the demographics of the marketing campaign or newsletter. According to customer responses mentioned earlier in this paper (Get to the Po!nt, 2009), more than 60% of customers surveyed may feel that if a business sent a marketing based from a purchased list, the would be considered spam. That s potentially more than half a purchased list thinking an is spam without knowing any of the content inside the message. Therefore, it is crucial that the information is relevant to these new contacts. content best practices Reputable information is very important, but having a reliable internal customer list isn t the only simple way to lower your bounced numbers. Phrases within the , all-image s and invisible tracking images are seen as high-risk contents by spam-checkers. Some software providers include the ability to check against spam-blockers of different clients included within the marketing software. This can be a valuable tool. It can flag any statements that may automatically place a marketing into the spam Phrases within the , all-image s and invisible tracking images are seen as high-risk contents by spam-checkers. folder; phrases such as Special Offer or Free may sound like perfectly logical ways to get a customer s attention; however, odds are it will reach the spam folder first. Images can be used within HTML s. They are a way to portray an idea with limited textual explanation. This can also be dangerous though, as some clients automatically disable images. One of the reasons clients have this feature is to block the ability for invisible tracking images to track a user s open-rate. The customer must accept all of those images in order for the tracking image to be recognized and counted as a uniquely opened . With so many things to exclude in marketing materials, there are some very important things to include as well in order to be trusted by the audience. If images can be such a problem, it is imperative that a text-only version of the is available to users whose client is set up not to receive HTML s. It is also important to label the images within the HTML version so that a user can tell the purpose of an image without having images turned on in their browser. When all else fails, the best backup plan is to include a link to a suitable web version of the content.

4 Here is an example of an all-image with and without images displayed in Gmail. It is difficult to know the offer without the images enabled. This illustrates the importance of providing a web version of marketing s. Unsubscribe and opt-in process It is inevitable that some members of an list will wish to unsubscribe. It isn t pleasant, but making the unsubscribe process as painless and efficient as possible will give the client an opportunity to appear trustworthy and helpful. If an unsubscribe process is difficult, with broken links or even missing an unsubscribe link altogether, the customer may be more abrasive to the company because of the inconvenience. Therefore, it is a best practice to place the unsubscribe opportunity in the same area of each , in plain text, and be as instantaneous as possible to keep the customer from inadvertently receiving any further s. If a customer fills out a form on a website and expresses an interest in receiving -based campaigns or newsletters, it is good practice (and sometimes lawfully necessary) that the customer receives a preliminary opt-in . This is generally a short including why the user is receiving an , content explaining future s (campaigns, offers, newsletters), and finally a link to officially sign up to be included in those future communications. Once the customer has clicked the link within the opt-in , he or she will receive future messages. However, if the customer does not do anything with the opt-in , he or she will not be contacted any further. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but in the end, it keeps lists clean and the return on investment as high as possible, with only truly interested customers receiving marketing s. Unsubscribing is a necessary option to marketing communication it is as important as the opt-in opportunity.

5 Spam compliance The general public isn t the only group getting tougher on marketing. In September 2009, the FTC published the latest laws in place for the CAN-SPAM Act. The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business lays out each law involving electronic marketing. This guide explains that each separate in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000. Imagine how much one spam sent to thousands of customers could cost. Keeping marketing s legitimate and trustworthy isn t just a courtesy, it could save a company millions of dollars in fines. The main requirements set forth by the FTC are as follows: 1. Don t use false or misleading header information. Your From, To, Reply-To and routing information including the originating domain name and address must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message. 2. Don t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message. 3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement. 4. Tell recipients where you re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service or a private mailbox you ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations. 5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read and understand. Creative use of type size, color and location can improve clarity. Give a return address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your own spam filter doesn t block these opt-out requests. 6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an address or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don t want to receive more messages from you, you can t sell or transfer their addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. 7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your marketing, you can t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible. These guidelines are not difficult to follow as long as the steps listed throughout this paper are considered and a business conducts its marketing in the same way it would like to receive external marketing. Future of spam The future of spam is somewhat unclear; as the technology grows, so will the abilities to reach customers through different forms of media. Businesses will continue to grow customer databases and personalize campaigns more efficiently as more information is gathered. The best thing companies can do to keep their marketing messages in the inbox is to pay attention to the information at hand and make the business relationship more personal in order to build trust in a time when useless spam is infiltrating the customer s personal space every day.

6 References The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business, Federal Trade Commission, September Retrieved February, 2010 from Marketing vs. Spam: a 10-Round Smack-Down, InfusionSoft, Retrieved October, 2009 from Spam: What Consumers Really Think, Silverpop, Retrieved November, 2009 from Spam Produces 17m Tons of CO2, BBC News, April 16, Retrieved August, 2009 from Get to the Po!nt: Does This Look Like Spam to You?, MarketingProfs, Vol. 2, No. 125, October 26, Retrieved October, 2009 from

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