Q: Chris, we recently read that we can add the email addresses we get from the bridal shows we participate in to our email marketing database without again getting a brides permission, or what I believe is called a direct “opt-in.” Is this right? We’re confused as to what the right thing to do is?
A: No. The bridal show producer’s salesperson is wrong.
This topic brings up the age old question of; “What is it we can do “legally” vs. what is the right thing to do.”
I’ve had many conversations about this topic of “doing the right thing” with my three daughters.
I’m glad to say, they “get it.”
Unfortunately, many in the wedding industry don’t “get it.”
Some, even in the email marketing industry itself, are confusing the issue even as I write this.
The end result… with bad information, bad advice, or an incomplete explanation, you end up wasting time, money, and get frustrated.
Worse, you end up aggravating the exact people you are trying to turn into real customers.
Still worse, you get your email address blacklisted and spend a month or two trying to get it un-blacklisted.
Some say it’s a “gray area.”
I say there is nothing GRAY about it.
You cannot and should not bulk load them into your email marketing program and broadcast to them without getting their permission in a manner that is directly given to you or your company.
And if you do load them up and broadcast to them, because technically speaking you can do this, your email marketing provider will shut you down as soon as they figure out what you’ve done (i.e. Constant Contact, MyEmma, MailChimp, etc.).
There is no “appeal” process, there will be no refund. Sure, you can call in by phone and waste time talking with their “compliance” department. If you win the argument, let me know – I’ll buy you lunch, wash your car, and do your laundry for a week.
Don’t you have better things to do like follow-up on the four inquiries you got from your website yesterday? (BTW: if you didn’t get four inquiries from your website yesterday, we should talk…).
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to loading bulk email addresses from bridal shows, or any other source (i.e. Chamber of Commerce, website where you advertise, association you belong to, etc.).
(1) Don’t do it.
Do not bulk load lists of email addresses from bridal shows into your email marketing system. It’s bad business, (a) it will hurt your company’s reputation, (b) in the long-run you will lose more business, (c) it is not the right thing to do, (d) it actually won’t work, (d) your email provider will shut you down.
OK… you might be Mr. Smarty Pants and get away with it for a few broadcasts, but it is still not the right thing to do and your email marketing provider will shut you down.
(2) Legally, relative to U.S. law and the Federal Trade Commission, you CAN do it.
As long as you can establish a legitimate “relationship” to a person and follow some of the other criteria in the FTC’s CAN-SPAM act, “legally” you won’t be breaking any FEDERAL laws and won’t get any hard time.
There may be local or state laws you’ll be breaking, but that’s a different discussion and nothing my clients worry about – BECAUSE THEY DO THE RIGHT THING when it comes to email marketing.
If you do have a streak of defiance in you, and do it anyway, you’ll very likely get your email address blacklisted (<firstname.lastname@example.org>). Now your legitimate email correspondence to existing customers won’t get to them. Ouch!
So even though you won’t be breaking any laws, don’t expect legitimate and reputable email marketing providers to let you bulk load and broadcast to “bridal show lists.”
Even if you manage to get past their initial safeguards and get out one or two broadcasts, they’ll catch on to what you’re doing and shut you down.
(3) Build your email subscriber list legitimately and appropriately using “opt-in” techniques. It’s going to take some time. The good news is; people who do subscribe to your newsletters and stay subscribed are much more likely going to convert into new customers and actual sales! This free white paper from Net Atlantic has some great advice and shows you how.
Contrary to what you read, what maybe you heard at a Constant Contact seminar, or maybe even what some “wedding industry authority” tells you, email marketing is not easy. Sure, it’s not rocket-science. Actually, building a legitimate subscriber list is the hardest part.
Bulk loading email addresses into your email marketing system is not the right thing to do and you should not do it.
EMAIL Marketing Best Practices
Constant Contact: Building Lists
This video discusses best practices, it would be nice if Constant Contact did a video about practices to avoid, like… bulk lists.
EMAIL Marketing Defined