E-mail: Go Organic
Ask vs. Automate
Trust is an essential part of any interaction with a customer, and that begins with a permission-based relationship. Before marketers add customers' addresses to their e-mail lists, they need to make sure these customers want to be contacted. If the relationship is desired by the customer, the business has an increased opportunity for success. If the customer does not consent to be contacted, e-mailing him with offers and news is perceived as spam, giving the company a negative reputation that could be passed to other potential customers.
Ideally, businesses should be working to extend relationships online that may have started elsewhere. If a business has postal addresses and wants to add e-mail addresses, asking instead of automating will develop increased sales potential. Extending a relationship is what a business should focus on, and using e-mail should be considered a tool to aid in that goal.
There's Rules and Then There's Common Sense
The CAN-SPAM Act enforced by the Federal Trade Commission lays out the rules and regulations for unsolicited e-mail. E-mail append supporters say customer consent for a postal address also implies e-mail consent. However, customers who suddenly start receiving e-mails from a business to which they've never given permission may perceive that contact as spam.
The Direct Marketing Association has published guidelines on appending e-mail addresses to consumer files, largely based on the CAN-SPAM Act. Requirements include a pre-established relationship, the ability for removal with the welcome e-mail and subsequent e-mails, and that the data used in the append process is composed of users who opted in to receiving e-mails. The DMA says vendors or businesses should never guess, manufacture or harvest e-mail addresses.
Rules aside, the path to better business is always honesty in e-mail list creation. If marketers wonder whether a tactic might violate CAN-SPAM, they probably are considering a tactic that isn't likely to be well-received by existing or potential customers. Their e-mail campaigns will be welcomed by customers if recipients already do business with the company and have consented to be contacted.