A crash course for building a solid framework for success
Whether you’ve just started your email marketing program or have been at it for years; if you’re increasing your frequency or changing providers, there’s a lot to know about delivery, open rates and permissions. What was the rule of thumb a decade ago, has changed. What rules were in place in the past, but ignored, are now being enforced. If your program was grown organically throughout the years, you may not even know what’s required as a business using this marketing vehicle.
As you continue to develop your email marketing program, following are best practices that provide a solid framework for success.
Research and become very familiar with the CAN-SPAM rules to be sure that you have a solid understanding of what you must and must not do. The acronym stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. You may find the entire CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 at www.ftc.gov if you want all the legalese. Here are the highlights:
- Include your physical address on all emails. This illustrates that you are not a fictitious entity and gives individuals a way to contact you outside of email.
- Every email should include an easy and free method for opting out (unsubscribing) of receiving future email communications.
- Honor unsubscribe requests within 10 days.
- Do not make false claims in the “From,” “To” and “Reply to” fields. Do not claim to be someone you are not.
- Monitor all emails at all times, especially if a service sends out emails on your behalf. You are ultimately responsible for what goes out into the world.
- Do not add anyone to your list without getting their permission.
- Do not share or sell the email address information in your list.
Fines and penalties for violations of CAN-SPAM are hefty. Staying true to the path of compliance will keep you free of scrutiny and will keep your domain (your .com) from being labeled as Spam.
It is essential to keep all contact data as accurate as possible (I feel like I’ve said this before … hmm). This will assure the accuracy of any verification processes or appends you perform.
Collect email addresses at any outlet where there is direct interaction with a player/guest. This includes the players club, the hotel, kiosks, websites and social media pages. Make every effort to link those email addresses back to an account in your player system so that you can keep everything consistent and up-to-date. Having your data all in one place, as much as is possible, will make it easier to manage and keep accurate.
Email Appends and Opt-In Emails
CAN-SPAM rules discourage the purchase of email lists. You can’t just start sending email to people who do not already do business with you. An email append to your existing data paired with an opt-in email satisfies the CAN-SPAM rules regarding purchased lists because you are starting with an existing player/guest record. A data append uses the name and address data of your player/guest to find additional information about those individuals; in this case, an email address associated with that player/guest. A clean and up-to-date database is essential for a successful append.
Every first email you send to a player/guest should be one that asks for permission to continue sending emails. Whether you’ve been collecting emails for a period of time, you’ve just done an email append, or your program has been up and running and you are accumulating new email addresses, send that first email out and get that official opt-in.
That first opt-in email is also a great time to gather information from your player/guest about their preferences; how often they want email, what topics they are interested in, etc. A short survey link with 3-5 questions would be ideal for this purpose. Oftentimes, an offer of some kind may be used as motivation for opt-in.
Every email you send out must have an easy and free method for opting out of receiving emails from you, otherwise known as unsubscribing. You must comply with that unsubscribe request within 10 days of receiving it. Keep a running suppression list of unsubscribed emails to make sure that you don’t send to those addresses in the future. Using an outside company or agency to help with your email marketing program can help you manage your opt-outs and invalid email addresses as your program progresses.
Stay tuned for more best practices in Part II relating to email subject lines, text formatting, the use of graphics and videos, and variable content.