I came across a question about auto-subscribing leads to a company blog. I was very surprised at the question this late in the game. Here it is, without names:
Is it appropriate, best practice to auto subscribe leads to your company blog then give them the option to unsubscribe or is it better to introduce the blog in an offer email and let them subscribe?
I naturally said this is not a good idea and that the marketer should invite currently opted in leads to sign up for the blog. This is what I got back:
…but I’m being pushed by my manager and our VP of marketing that said it is “best practice” to subscribe them and let them unsubscribe on their own.
If your executives believe email “best practices” are to violate several countries’ laws and get fined $16,000 per email, then yes, they are right.
Update: in the US, a reader reminded me CANSPAM is still “opt-out” which means the writer could have done this as long as there was unsubscribe option that could be honored within 10 days. The caveat is that this is not a best practice anymore. I know that some marketers have instead asked their email list to opt-in to blog posts. In the US, this may be legal enough with US emails, however, it should be done once and it would be a best practice to not email non explicitly opted-in email addresses again. Remember that Spam filters and blacklists punish faster than the government.
A better way is to treat people with the Golden Rule (and obeying the law).
You must tell people what they are agreeing to up front. You will get far more unsubscribes and complaints if you just start emailing people who never requested it. I’ve been there with management insisting it’s ok.
My understanding of the anti-spam laws in US, Canada, and EU (and I’m not a lawyer and this post is not legal advice) is to use opted-in emails. Here are some best practices:
- You can email any customer in regard to their account, order, or if they made a request that implies a repsonse (like registering for a webinar).
- Your forms MUST be “opt in” and cannot “default check the box”. That’s explicitly wrong in Canada and EU now, so if you are doing business there and have a US website, you should consider your form setup.
- If someone did not opt in, do not send them an email. (exceptions above, but be very careful here).
- If they opted in thinking they were going to receive an invitation to webinars only, then don’t send them blog posts.
- You can send your list a one time email to opt in to stuff (if your data is sketchy), but do not do it again.
- You must have an easy unsubscribe link. Best practice is to offer an “Unsubscribe Now” link and a “Subscription Management” link.
- Yes, it is illegal to subscribe someone to anything that they have to explicitly requested in certain countries. The fine in the US for continuing to email someone after an unsubscribe is $16,000 per incident.
- Always do the thing you would want someone to do to you. If I thought email practices were annoying on another website site, I would not do that to my subscribers.
The above is summary of various countries’ laws, so I would urge you to ask appropriate counsel for any local variations for the jurisdictions in which you operate. If you look for privacy laws and subscription management on Community, you’ll find more laws and more ways to operationalize them. Marketo wrote several articles and a module to handle EU Privacy and Cookie Directives. You can look up CANSPAM and Email Deliverability to find out more.
Are you putting together a Spam compliance workflow? Do you need some help? Let us know below!
And if you like what I’m doing here, check out my new Facebook Page. Yes, I joined the rest of the planet.
[Updated: January 6, 2018 – removed bad links]