I frequently speak with marketers who define spam in a way that justifies their current practices and lets them bring their message to the largest audience. This is a primary function of a marketing professional – exposure. From this position, spam is often defined as broadcast email sent containing spyware, phishing, pornography and so on. I doubt any marketer considers them self to be a spammer (at least they don’t vocalize it if they do).
The system administrator on the receiving end of an email campaign has a very different role than the email marketer. The administrator is responsible for protecting their system and users from unwanted and malicious email. They only want to process email that complies with company policy with regard to content and is sent to valid recipients who want to receive it. On the receiving end, spam is generally defined as “unsolicited bulk (or commercial) email.”
A significant difference between these two definitions is in the consent, or lack thereof. It would be nice if this difference of opinion was one of those situations where it’s okay to “agree to disagree,” but, if you don’t have explicit permission to send your marketing message to an individual, chances are you will run into issues getting your mail delivered at some point. As much as marketers might believe they have done nothing wrong when they send to a list that was borrowed from a sister company or (gasp!) a purchased or appended list, the receiving end determines what will be delivered and what will be rejected. If recipients complain about mail you send because it was not requested, you will have delivery issues. It’s as simple as that.
It’s not just receiving domains that include unsolicited mail in their definition of spam; the governing bodies in several countries agree. Canada’s Bill C28, passed in December 2010, requires email marketers to have permission from intended recipients before sending any commercial mail to, from or through their country. While there is still some time before this will go into full effect, I believe that if you send within Canada, now is the time to get explicit permission from existing subscribers on your list and any new subscribers you add going forward, whether you think they are in Canada or not.
Canada isn’t the only country that will be working under an opt-in structure; however Bill C28 is another important reason to make sure you follow this long standing best practice. If you currently send to only those subscribers who have given consent, good work!
Greg Robinson is the Deliverability Manager at Informz.