Editor's Note: This blog post was has been updated as of July 21st, 2018 - it was originally written on December 15th, 2015.
There are 5 things I continue to see small businesses and individuals doing in their email marketing that hurt their reputation.
I want to get any shaming out of the way. This post wasn't written to make you feel bad, it's to educate you and give you information to help you take your business to the next level, and update your email marketing.
5 things to never do in email marketing and why they're problematic.
We're going to layout why these actions go against best practices, and offer you examples why having an email marketing platform is key for your business.
1. Sending out event announcements for your business through personal email
If you're sending out personal emails about your business, chances are that not everyone receiving those emails have given you permission to email them.
If you're sending an email to anyone who has not expressly given permission to you to be emailed about your business, you're spamming people. Straight up.
This is no joke.
People are incredibly protective of their email address, and it's important that as a business you respect that.
Beyond people's fee-fees the biggest reason you shouldn't do this? You could be violating the law:
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (which stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003.) was signed into law by President Bush in 2003. It was created as the first national standard for commercial e-mail and is now enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
They were really cute and worked in the acronym SPAM. Funny bureaucrats!
If you are a small business sending out commercial email - which make no mistake if you are talking about something that people obtain through a purchase (art, products, services, etc.) than these are commercial, transactional emails.
It's important that you be fully compliant with the restrictions CAN-SPAM has put on place.
Some highlights from that CAN-SPAM that you should be practicing within your emails and your business:
A visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism is present in all emails. Meaning: You must have a way for recipients of your email to be able to opt out easily: a button, a way to update their subscribe preferences. It's not OK to simply say "please reply with Unsubscribe."
Consumer opt-out requests are honored within 10 business days. Meaning: When someone unsubscribes you have a limited time period to remove them (if you are legit than your email marketing platform does it automatically when a subscriber unsubscribes). You may not add them back again without their consent
A legitimate physical address of the publisher and/or advertiser is present. Meaning: Your email must have your business address within your email - this keeps people on the up and up and accountable.
A message cannot be sent without an unsubscribe option. Meaning: If there is no way for people to unsubscribe than you can not send your email. See how serious they are about this? They say it numerous times!
Why this is realllllllly bad: Let's get real for a second.
There are so many reasons why emailing people without their express permission is not a good business practice.
First and foremost, it's against the law. While it's not really enforced, it doesn't matter because sending out an unsolicited email not only looks bad because it's spam, it also makes your business look unprofessional.
Secondly, many of those people you're emailing without permission most likely don't want your email. I know, that feels bad but it's true. And, because there's no way to unsubcribe they're most likely marking your email as spam. 😱
Solution: Every single email service provider offer all of the above options! And some of them you can sign up for free and offer you the ability to create beautiful, branded formatted emails
2. Sending attachments in a personal email
As a business you have a few seconds to grab someone's attention. Studies have shown you have less than 8 seconds to grab someone's attention.
Now add that they're annoyed that you sent an email about your business to their inbox that they didn't ask for, then add that it takes time and energy to open and read the attachment.
Why this is realllllllly bad: The above may sound dramatic, but honestly you have very little time to grab someone's attention and if you're making them work for it you've already lost them. You want your information front and center.
No one likes to open an attachment - especially due to email scams. No one is going to open your attachment except your Boomer parents.
Solution: All of the email service providers offer the ability to insert your gorgeous images for your subscribers to see immediately upon opening your email. There is never a need to add an attachment. Never.
3. Sending group emails about your business
Just stop doing this, period. It comes over as so arrogant and thoughtless.
Why this is realllllllly bad: You work so hard at what you do, don't give the illusion you don't care about other people's time or privacy. Because we know you do! But doing this makes you look really bad.
Solution: Do not ever send a group email to anyone about anything unless it's your family, because really who cares what they think. (I'm kidding!)
Again, you need every single person's express permission to email them about anything involving your business.
4. Adding people that did not sign up to your email list
As a business you want people interested and engaged with your products. This is true for your mailing list as well, you want your subscribers to open and click on content you've sent them.
Why this is realllllllly bad: One of the biggest concerns with adding people who have not signed up to receive your email is that people may report your email as spam. This can create huge problems for you as a business and getting your message across.
All email service providers take this seriously, as do email hosting platforms like Gmail and Yahoo.
Some of the consequences can result in your email marketing account being suspended, aggressive spam filters for your email address, and worse blacklisting your email - which means never getting your message to the people on those email platforms again.
Solution: Mailchimp lays this out beautifully:
The best way to grow an email list is to do so slowly and organically, so that the people on your list are really engaged and are the top notch followers of your business or organization.
Even though someone is a current or past customer of yours, they may not want to receive emails from you.
If you have a list of customer email addresses and you want to start sending them email marketing, but you don't have their permission yet, you need to ask for it.
Send a "Re-Introduction Email" from your regular email address (not a bulk email program like MailChimp). Put together a personal note like you would write to a friend. Include the link to your signup form in the emails. This signup process is simple and effective.
5. Dumping your personal email contacts into your email service provider (Mailchimp, Seva, etc.)
Your friends, colleagues, and personal and professional contacts may think you're great (hell, I do!) but that doesn't mean they want to be on your newsletter or part of your email marketing campaign.
While it may be tempting to do this, don't. If people want email from your business they can and will sign up for it.
Why this is realllllllly bad: Adding personal email addresses from your personal email account is an abuse of someone's trust and personal information. Don't be this person. Don't live in scarcity - you don't want people on your list that don't want to be there.
Solution: Send an email to your friends, family, and peers and let them know you're starting (or revamping) your newsletter strategy. Tell them you would love their support, and give them a link to sign up for your newsletter. Super simple, and this way you have their permission!
Final thoughts: grow your list organically & responsibly
If you've done any of the above, you're not a bad person! I'm willing to bet with all that you have to do as a business owner, you simply haven't given any of the above a second thought, and had no idea that any of these actions are bad form.
There's a lot to learn as a business owner online. I get it.
When we're given people's personal information there is an unspoken trust there. It's so important that we respect that.
This is your business, something you've worked so hard to bring into fruition, respect it by following best practices that are expected of everyone.
I can't stress the importance enough of having an audience that wants to hear from you and in turn wants to engage with your products and content.
Treat your business like the professional entity that it is, sign up for an email service provider. Many of them offer free accounts if your subscriber list is below a certain amount.
If you do end up having to pay for it, remember it's a tax write off. I personally recommend Mailchimp for product based businesses. I find Mailchimp's user interface to be really easy, and they offer many videos and support through their blog posts to help educate you. I recommend Seva (formerly Convertkit) for B2B service based businesses.
Remember: it's not about the amount of email subscribers you have, it's about the number of sales you make, and the readers that truly engage with your products and content.
Have thoughts on this? Questions? Let me know below!