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Be honest now, where did you get all those email addresses for your mailing list?

This week the Irish Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland fined some large companies for sending out unsolicited marketing and according to the Irish Times:

“Companies that persist in sending unsolicited marketing messages by text and email will be prosecuted and face fines of up to €250,00 in court, the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) warned.”

It’s common to find businesses adding people to mailing lists or text alert lists without first gaining permission.  I know I get a bundle of unsolicited emails every day and many text alerts from companies I buy from.  But why should small businesses care?  Surely the more people we reach the better the results of our campaign will be?

Not necessarily, reaching the right people and sending targeted emails can be far more effective than sending out thousands of emails to the wrong people or those who have no interest in what you do.

Here’s my four top reasons for getting email opt in, can you think of any others?

Reason 1 The Law

Many will read the story from the Irish Times and shrug, is it likely that they will prosecute small businesses who add a few people they’ve met, or members of a local networking group to their mailing list without asking first?  The answer is that we don’t know but the law is the law and as businesses we should comply.

Anyone can complain to the Data Commissioners office if they receive unsolicited communication, is it worth the risk?   Here’s a really handy guide on complying with data protection legislation from the Data Protection Commissioner.

Reason 2 The cost

Many email marketing software providers including the two I use Newsletter.ie and Mailchimp offer a free service up to a certain number of subscribers (2,500 for Newsletter.ie and 2,000 for Mailchimp).  It is when we hit these limits and have to start paying per email or per subscriber to send our mails that we might realise the benefits of having a clean list.  Is it worth spending money on sending an email to someone who may not want to receive it?  Who hasn’t subscribed?  To be cost effective at this stage you will need to ensure you have a clean list.

The easiest way to clean your list is to try and engage with the people who haven’t opened your emails at all or recently, or those who don’t click the links within your emails.  It’s worth sending an email to these inactive subscribers to check in with them and make sure they still wish to receive your communications. Of course you may see some subscriber drop off, and this is only to be expected with a list you’ve had for a while but it will also ensure that every penny spent on your email marketing is spent on getting an email to someone who wants it.

Reason 3 Sentiment

What do you want someone to feel when they think of you and your company?  I’m sure you want them to associate positive emotions with you, you want them to be happy, impressed, relieved, delighted.  You don’t want them to be annoyed, sad, frustrated or angry.  It may seem extreme but by sending people marketing messages they don’t want and haven’t asked for you could be evoking these negative emotions.

Of course people can choose to unsubscribe from your list but they may not do this immediately, you are asking them to take time out of their day to do something so they will just continue to delete them or worse mark them as spam until they reach tipping point and finally unsubscribe.

Reason 4 Don’t get marked for spam

When a recipient marks your email that as spam it puts a black mark next to your email address, if this happens too often your email marketing software provider will suspend your account meaning that you can no longer send out newsletters or marketing emails to your list.

If you are not using email marketing software and you get too many spam reports it can result in your email address or even your domain getting blocked by many email service providers meaning that even your regular emails may not reach the intended recipient.

If you are sending unsolicited emails to people who didn’t opt in there is more chance of them marking them as spam.

Can you think of any other reasons to get opt in?  Do you think that it’s worth it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

photo credit: dok1 via photopin cc

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