SPAM – What is it, and some tips on how to avoid sending ‘spammy’ communications

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    In a world where businesses look at email as a fast, convenient way to reach a lot of people with their ‘very important messages’ what drives a person to the decision that a particular email is spam or junk mail?  Furthermore, who gets to decide what is spam and what is relevant?

    So, what is SPAM

    In the world of online communication, SPAM can be defined as ‘Unsolicited Commercial Email’ (or UCE for short).  ACMA describes SPAM as ‘unwanted messages sent to a person’s email account or mobile phone’.

    Who decides what is SPAM?

    It is certainly not the creator and/or sender of the email!  Even though something isn’t legally considered as SPAM, many consumers may decide that it is.

    Naturally, the information you’re sending to your subscribers is of interest to you – either it’s promoting some element of your business or its imparting information that you want to share with others.  If you didn’t think it was interesting it is unlikely you would send it!

    But just because it is interesting to you doesn’t guarantee that your subscribers will be as interested.  People do find marketing emails useful but generally they’re not as welcome in the inbox as other kinds of personal email.

    It is important to listen to your customers – nobody complains when they aren’t receiving enough email, but everyone complains when they receive something that annoys them!

    Why does this person think my email is SPAM?

    Some reasons why a person might mark email as SPAM:

    • They didn’t recognise the sender.
    • You’re sending more emails than they are happy with or were expecting.
    • They are not interested in the content you’re providing.
    • Your unsubscribe mechanism isn’t easy to use or it’s not in an obvious location in your email.
    • They forgot that they signed up.

    Tips on how you can avoid your email being considered as SPAM

    Clearly Identify Your Brand

    Using a person’s individual name might be a personal touch but if the people you’re communicating with don’t know who ‘you’ are (as opposed to, say, your brand or business name) you could find yourself in the SPAM folder simply based on that inability to recognise you as a friendly sender.

    Manage Expectations

    Inform your subscribers of how often you intend to send your communications.  Ideally you would do this as part of your sign-up process or you could include it in your welcome email.  Using a preference centre approach to sign up lets a subscriber choose for themselves how often they want to receive your communications.

    Periodically you should consider giving your subscribers a reminder that they can change their preferences at any time; by giving your subscribers control over your communication frequency with them you are more likely to keep them engaged.

    Stay Relevant and Connected

    Over time, people’s tastes and interests change.  Think of your own situation, what might have been interesting or relevant to you a year ago may no longer so now. The same rule applies to your subscribers.  A subscriber preference centre can help address this – as can regular reminders to your subscribers to update their preferences.

    Monitoring email addresses that are repeatedly unengaged (did not open) can give you a hint that your communication may not be hitting the spot.

    Clearly identify your unsubscribe link

    gCast provides an unsubscribe link at the bottom of each email but you have the ability to insert links for subscribers to manage their preferences and so on anywhere within your content.

    There is common agreement in the e-marketing community that having a smaller database of highly engaged subscribers who want to hear from you is far better than having a large database of unengaged, disinterested subscribers. People who want to be in your database will always be more engaged and return higher response and revenue.  With this in mind, placing an unsubscribe/manage-your-preferences link somewhere highly visible is not always a bad idea.

    Consider a customer preference centre

    Increasingly popular, customer preference centres give subscribers the opportunity not only to opt out completely but also to tweak relevance and frequency.

    Remind your subscribers how you got their details

    People quite often forget which sites they’ve signed up for or who they gave their details to.  It takes just a couple of well-placed sentences in your content to remind them how they signed up to receive your communications.

    Avoid purchased/rented contact lists

    Unless you can guarantee and/or prove that express consent was given, you would be wise to avoid using purchased contact lists.  We advise you seek legal advice for your own situation in such a case.

    Always obtain legitimate consent from your subscribers

    This means gaining either express consent, or inferred consent from their conduct and ‘existing business or other relationships’.  Remember that gaining consent from your subscribers doesn’t give you license to send whatever and whenever.  Permission is effectively earned every time you send a campaign.

    Ask the following questions with each send

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