Email is the most effective marketing tool available and it's relatively inexpensive. But overuse by a few unscrupulous bulk email companies is fast ruining this vital communication channel for us all. How can you manage your mailing list and email campaigns easily, efficiently and legally!

Please don’t spam – it’s bad for business

Email marketing is an easy, low-cost, targeted medium. As long as you have a good mailing list, it is an unrivalled return on investment. Unfortunately the companies that sell mailing lists are unscrupulous, so organisations are lured into buying a “qualified list”. Qualified means that the email was delivered – even if the person unsubscribed.

No-one thinks of themselves as a spammer, but many companies send out marketing emails, and often to people who have not specifically requested them.

If you send an email newsletter, you are in breach of South African and EU law if you don’t put your full details, including a working email address to allow people to remove themselves from the list. And you have to actually remove them from the list if they ask.

Co-ordinating your email newsletter

Managing your mailing list is time-consuming. My recommendation is to make use of a free mailing service like MailChimp to manage your newsletters. Their online system prevents duplicates, creates attractive emails and allows people to subscribe and unsubscribe easily. It also offers great reporting to see what works.

MailChimp reports

Spam is the electronic equivalent of junk mail and now exceeds 90% of all e-mail traffic. Perhaps even more worrying is a recent US study that found that four out of every five children aged 7 to 18 regularly receive spam e-mail offering gambling, money lending, scams and pornographic material.

With no penalty for the shameless waste of consumer’s time and internet bandwidth, spam has spread like wildfire. The negatives are all with the consumer, and none with the spammer! In fact, companies make a good living selling your email address to 3rd parties.

What is being done about spam?

Technical solutions continue to evolve, but they accommodate the problem rather than solve it. Most Internet Service Providers have blacklists of regular spammers and there are many software vendors offering individual paid-for solutions.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years.

The aim of the GDPR is to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches, but it also legally prevents companies from harvesting email addresses, and from sending unsolicited email. This legislation was only enacted in 2018, and it changed the way many companies worldwide treat their mailing lists.

South Africa’s Electronic Communication and Transactions (ECT) Act of 2002 includes legislation against unsolicited bulk emails. Unfortunately it is not enforced.

10 Tips to improve your email subscriptions

  1. Offer value : Spell out the value visitors will get from your newsletter if they sign up for your emails.
  2. Every email anyone in your company sends is an opportunity to grow your marketing list. Add a subscribe link to email signatures company wide.
  3. Include an “email a friend” button on your emails. This is another way to reach a wider audience.
  4. Creating a calendar, how-to guide, or eBook is an excellent way to collect email addresses. Offer this content for download in return for marketing consent.
  5. Emphasise that people can unsubscribe at any time, and tha tyou have a strict privacy policy with regard to selling their email addresses on to other companies.
  6. Create an exclusive product line or benefit (like free shipping) for email subscribers to incentivise sign ups.
  7. Hosting in-store events after hours is an awesome way to grow your email list. Offering free tickets in return for marketing consent is a no-brainer.
  8. Keep your email sign-up form simple. If you ask too many personal questions you’ll put them off subscribing.
  9. Segment the audience you show sign-up forms to so you can tailor news accordingly. This will make your sign-up forms more relevant and likely to resonate.
  10. It almost goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: if your email content is outstanding, people will share it.


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