SPAM Part II – Best Practices for Legitimate Contact

The best way to avoid being confused for (or reported as) Spam is to make your Internet communication as personalized as possible, and be certain that all recipients have opted-in or verbally expressed permission to contact them.

Opt-In email marketing has the highest return on investment of any other form of marketing available. The ability to target interested parties on a one-to-one personalized basis is the core of email marketing’s power. Sending Spam emails will destroy your reputation and, in turn, your deliverability – thus rendering your marketing efforts ineffective.

In situations where you are sending the same information to several contacts at once, it’s important to remember these guidelines:

1.  Only send to contacts who have explicitly agreed to receive your messages – Contacts who’ve contacted you directly are always the most receptive to your message. Make sure your email sign-up forms are clear; even people who’ve gone through transactions with you will want to be asked before they start receiving emails. Always make joining your contact list an option; no pre-checked subscription boxes!

2. Do not purchase email lists – This practice is not only desperate and shady, it’s highly ineffective. Also, there’s usually no way to know if the email addresses are legitimate.

3. Do not harvest your list from the Internet – Randomly selecting contacts from blogs and websites is ineffective and unwelcome. If a prominent executive receives over 4 million unsolicited emails a year, a majority of them spam, how many of those do you think he reads?

4. Keep your list fresh – While this can vary depending on your marketing practices, it’s a good rule of thumb to carefully review any contact more than a year old. Often a simple email asking if they are still interested in receiving information from you will reap dividends and reinvigorate a contact.

5. Information on your contact list should include the source and date of opt-in – Knowing your contacts will enable you to market to them more effectively.

6. Proper and accurate contact information – Any contact you make over email should include your correct name, mailing address, and telephone number.

7. “Unsubscribe” link – Unsubscribing disinterested parties isn’t just a good business practice, it’s also the law! Make sure that any message you send out has clear and accurate information for recipients to opt-out of receiving messages.

8. No false email headers or subject lines – Every part of your email header, including the “From,” “To,” and “Reply-To” lines, your routing information and email address need to be accurate. Avoid “Trojan Horse” subject lines that have little or nothing to do with the content of your email message.

9. Identify your email as warranted in the subject line, if possible – This is especially important when reaching out to someone for the first time. If they typically receive daily Spam, they may inadvertently delete your message if it doesn’t stand out as valid right away. Consider “It was great meeting you at the XXX conference” or “Thank you for attending my XXX seminar”. Something unique and personal that stands out.

10. Be aware of messages being sent out in your name – It’s not unusual to delegate responsibilities to an assistant, but be certain that co-workers or employees doing business under your name are following these guidelines as well.

11. Keep your content consistent and recognizable – If you are going through changes in your company (for instance a change-of-name) be sure that you let your contacts know about the transition. If changing email addresses, be sure to let your contacts know of the change before it happens (using your current email address), and even ask them to add your new email address to their “safe” list. Also, keeping a consistent look and appearance for your email messages (distinctive headers, logos, portrait, etc.) will help your contacts recognize your email as a message from a trusted sender.

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