Is CASL - Canada's latest anti-spam legislation due to come into effect July 1st, 2014 - an overreaching hindrance to marketers, or an opportunity to establish new best practices and see email marketing become more effective as a result?
In my view, it's definitely the latter. It's no surprise that customers hate spam (you and I included). As marketers, legislation is a double-edged sword - restricting how we use our tools, while simultaneously forcing us to pay more attention to how we reach out to prospects - potentially making us much better at our jobs.
I'll cover the basics of CASL laws in a following post, so I won't go into detail here. Instead, I want to offer a handful of tips any business can use to stay compliant with new Canadian anti-spamming laws while being more effective with their messaging at the same time. (Yes, US companies may be affected by the Canadian law given the interconnected nature of our business workings.)
Tip No. 1: Don't worry about your e-lists.
Over the next few months, you're going to see lots of people advising you about what to do with the Canadian email addresses in your lists, or to segregate those contacts onto a new list. But, I think that's a total waste of time.
Instead of trying to segment your marketing by region, why not just acknowledge that you have diversity amongst your contacts - as most North American businesses will - and concentrate on doing things in a way that is beneficial to them individually?
For those of you who have contacts on your list who never opted in and have no reason to want to hear from you, start purging. No need to hold on to them, and they are a waste of your resources anyway. No time like "now" to "start fresh" with a brand-new, opt-in email campaign.
Tip No. 2: Now, worry about your e-lists.
So many email marketers can't fathom that a smaller list can actually be a better list. Granted, that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it also happens to be true. I would much rather have a dozen subscribers who are good prospects for what I have to offer and eagerly looking forward to my messages than I would a hundred times as many who weren't really interested. That's because the smaller list is much more likely to actually create a sales opportunity.
In the new world of CASL, you should adopt a similar viewpoint. Smaller lists of subscribers filled with prospects and customers who actually know you are not only easier to manage, they are much more profitable.
Tip No. 3: Don't try to bend the rules.
Every time new legislation comes around, there are unscrupulous marketers who think they've found a way around the rules within the first few weeks. In this case, the government got it right and thought ahead. So, even though it shouldn't have to be mentioned at all, it's worth pointing out that sending someone an email asking for their consent to message them in the future is considered spam if you don't have an existing business relationship. This isn't an area where you want to bend the rules.
Tip No. 4: Be very clear about everything.
Although it's a smaller provision within CASL, one stipulation is that you must be very clear about who you're sending email to, who and where it's coming from, and how you obtained the address (if your contact filled out a form on your website, it's pretty obvious an opt-in). Additionally, you have to make it very simple for people to unsubscribe automatically.
If this sounds like a big burden, remember that reminding people how they know you (and why they want to receive messages from you in the future) is a pretty good way to retain subscribers anyway. So, make it a point to be clear about everything that needs to be said.
Tip No. 5: Take advantage of this new opportunity.
Once you've pared down your lists and included the required info, what's next? That's easy - put together messages that actually connect with the people you are sending them to. In other words, take advantage of the fact that your list is more targeted and focused than ever before. What kind of offer can you make that will be irresistible to your most important customers or prospects? Know that, and you've not only solved the puzzle of CASL, but turned it into one of your biggest advantages.
It goes without saying that CASL is going to be hard on some companies. But, if you adopt the right kinds of marketing practices and mindsets, your business doesn't have to be one of them. In fact, you may just find that the new laws help you achieve a level of clarity and focus that was missing from your emails before.
At KAYAK Online Marketing, we live and breath an ethical approach to online marketing, which includes focusing on content of interest to our prospects and clients alike. To help you get to know the guidelines around e-communications in both the US and Canada a bit better, we've posted a PDF that you can download from our website. Simply zip over now to download it.