The notices are compelling when they’re sent by organizations you actually want to hear from. Not so much when the senders have been more interested in building their lists than in understanding whether the people who make up their target audiences actually want to be in touch with them. Either way, this is a moment of truth for email marketing, and one that any honest, diligent marketer should welcome.
The Anti-Spam Deadline Looms
If you’re in Canada, or receive subscriptions (wanted or unwanted) from Canadian sources, the reminders and outright pleading are becoming more strident by the day.
“New anti-spam legislation is coming into effect,” wrote one purveyor of mass email with a product I don’t need. This is a large company that seems to have missed the memo on how to unsubscribe mail recipients after repeat requests. “Please take a moment to provide your email consent so we can keep you up to date on the latest [products], offers, promotions and more.” Um, no.
“Our records show you have not yet given consent to receive electronic messages from us, and that is why we are contacting you one final time,” explained another frequent emailer, after I’d happily ignored previous exhortations to subscribe. “This doesn’t have to be the end.”
Well, actually, maybe it does. And that’s the unexpected joy of Canada’s new legislation: millions of disgruntled or apathetic subscribers can streamline their incoming email flow, all at once and with no need for repeat requests, just by doing nothing.
Email Marketing Faces a Test
There’s been a flurry of interest and concern over Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, and I’ve been pleased to see growing interest in the anti-spam primers available from our strategic partner, Doreen Ashton Wagner at Greenfield Services.
But on some level, I’ve always thought the main purpose of anti-spam legislation was to reinforce common sense. If someone doesn’t want to receive your overwhelmingly important email message, how does it help them or help you if you send it anyway? And most important, what would Miss Manners say if you continued to send out unwanted spam? (No one, and certainly no marketer, should want to run afoul of Miss Manners.)
Yet the data in a recent Hubspot primer on email marketing point to the basic driver behind anti-spam legislation. The report documents open rates between 3.0 and about 7.5% for different email formats, based on variables like number of images in the message, and maximum image height and width.
Numbers of that magnitude are familiar to anyone who’s ever had a hand in an email campaign. But they tell a bigger story: if 7.5% is the best open rate an email marketer can hope for, anti-spam legislation could eliminate 70, 80 or even 90% of their total list. Which means many if not most of those recipients should never have been on the list for what amounts to unsolicited junk—and the logistical cornerstone of mass email campaigns is open to question.
Inbound Marketing Trumps Outbound
There may be an exception to the rule.
If content marketers are right about the steady, gradual, respectful process of building profile and community by sharing useful knowledge and ideas, the people on their email lists are likely to be far more engaged than the average. Which means a higher proportion of those contacts will choose to re-subscribe—and the anti-spam process will really be nothing more than a routine list cleansing exercise.
None of this is to argue against using email at a critical point in the sales and outreach funnel—when prospects are engaged and aware, but not yet ready to buy, subscribe, or join. But how much more effective would that conversion process be if more of the contacts entering the funnel actually had some idea of why they should want to be there?
It would be fascinating to know whether there’s any data out there to back up this supposition. If so, it would tell us that anti-spam compliance is much more than an opportunity (or inducement) to show some online etiquette. It may also generate valuable insights on whether content marketing trumps traditional outbound strategies, and if so, by what margin. That kind of strategic intelligence is something that any marketer should welcome, whatever approach they’ve taken in the past.