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Edating Readers

One of our Australian clients sent out a campaign using a list which had been complied manually.

The message contained information relevant for the specific job position that these recipients held. It had the sender's details, a functional (and automated) unsubscribe link, real "from" and "reply" addresses and manual unsubscribes were actioned and replied to immediately. It was personalised with name, Company and position.

Did they have express consent from the recipient? No.

Was it Spam? No

According to the Australian Spam Act 2003, our client was able to send these targeted recipients information relevant to their positions. This is what is referred as "Inferred Consent".

However, even though the campaign was entirely in accordance with the legislation, many of the recipients responded with "This is Spam" replies.

What went wrong? Nothing?.other than readers expectations.

Australian, American and European readers expect a simplified solution to the current Spam problem. Hence, when the relevant legislations came into being in each country, the readers immediately (and wrongly) thought that any communications sent to them other than what had been specifically requested must be Spam. Similar to the Australian Legislation (Spam ACT 2003), the USA (CAN Spam ACT) and the EU Anti-Spam Legislation, provide avenues for businesses to conduct legitimate marketing campaigns to corporates (as opposed to the general public). So, rather than asking the obvious question, such as: Is this the end of all direct marketing email campaigns? I believe we should be asking: How can we educate the public?

Readers need to be educated on the difference between permission and non-permission email. It seems that the once starkly obvious line between permission-based emails and Spam is fading in our readers minds, causing endless problems for emailers - not only the obvious problems such as blacklisting, but other more insidious problems such as ROI and maintaining clean lists.

Most of the causes of the publics distrust are of course, rightly attributed to Spammers - real Spammers.

Consumers have been told repeatedly not to reply to, or unsubscribe from, Spam, for fear of confirming that their address is "real" and therefore being added to Spam lists. This thought, in turn has encompassed anything that hinted at a whiff of Spam, with no consideration for permission-based email.

These are the readers who press their "this is Spam" button at anything doubtful or unwanted without a second's hesitation. They are also the reason for the growing amount of unopened email rates, as they are finding it easier to simply delete and report instead of unsubscribing to a newsletter they once signed up for. One such filtering program that is enabling the reader to do this is Mailwasher.

For the average email user, Mailwasher is an easy to use program to filter out Spam emails from legitimate emails. Unfortunately, it is also perfect for filtering your unwanted emails as well - emails that the reader once was interested in receiving, but now is not. With a click of the mouse, the once requested email is deleted on the server (i.e. it does not get recorded as being opened in your statistics), bounced (this is why your bounce rates are growing and your open rates are declining) AND reported to SpamCop - all with one click and 1 second of deliberation (or less). What's more, Mailwasher is free. I thoroughly recommend you download a copy and see for yourself how easy it is for your readers to blacklist you: www.mailwasher.net.

Some things you can do to minimise complaints:

1. Have a complaint system in place

This should be preferably manned by a person, not automated, so the complainant knows that you are taking them seriously. A reply ideally needs to be done in the same day as the complaint, and it needs to be positive rather than negative in tone. Be understanding, whilst clarifying that you have followed the legislative requirements and assure them that they will receive no further email communications from your company. THEN IMMEDIATELY, unsubscribe them from your database.

2. Have as much personalisation within the email as possible.

True Spammers don't have actual lists of email addresses. They create lists using dictionary attacks. Once they have emailed the list created using the above method, they pull the bounces, and then reuse the "good" addresses. Because of this, they are not able to personalise the emails at all, hence servers and personalise filters are set to stop any emails which do not include any personalisation. Therefore personalisation helps on 3 main levels:

? Helps to get through the filters and actually arrive in the recipient's mailbox.

? Helps the recipient to identify that is not Spam as it is addressed to themselves in various ways.

? The more personalising of the email the better - not only in name, company, position, member number etc but also in tailoring content to suit the person therefore reducing the likelihood of the recipient growing tired of receiving your communications.

3. The readers must be educated.

This will only happen in time - and only from using a combination of good emailing etiquette will they be assured that it is safe to unsubscribe from a newsletter they no longer want rather than delete and report. Most people that call you a spammer do so because they don't know the legislation. We, as marketers need to be aware of the need of educating our readers.

4. Automate the unsubscribe method.

Why do readers delete/bounce/report when tired of receiving the email instead of unsubscribing? Because it's easy. So, make it as easy as possible for your recipient to unsubscribe. It's a mistake to try and keep them on your list by means of a complicated unsubscribe method. You want a clean list -you only want people on your list who are potential buyers etc. By having a clean list you are better able to: deliver accurate reports, market research -understand what your customers are wanting and reduce the risk of being reported as a spammer and being blacklisted.

5. Inform them how you received their information.

Be open with them. The more you hide, the more you will look like a spammer in their eyes.

Don't be discouraged. As with all things, the more learned we (and our clients) become with regards to the Spam legislature, the easier it will be to conduct successful email marketing campaigns. The more marketers comply with the legislature, the more responsive our readers will be as well as learning to distinguish between Spam and genuine email marketing.

Kath Pay is Marketing Director of Ezemail, a web-based e-communications tool, which enables you to create, send and track your email marketing and SMS messaging campaigns. For more information please go to http://www.ezemail.com or contact Kath at: kath@ezemail.com.

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