Email marketing law – why data protection rules are important

Posted under Email

Email marketing law and data protection is a topic that comes up quite a lot so it’s worth re-visiting from time to time. If you’re using email marketing to reach your target audiences it’s essential that you do it professionally.

For some reason – probably because it’s so easy to do, and it’s low cost – we still see lots of poor email marketing practice. Let me explain what I mean:

  1. Marketing emails that I did not sign up to receive
  2. Repeated marketing emails from organisations that I have unsubscribed from
  3. Obviously “mass” email messages, often sent from their own email service provider (for example using Outlook to send mail-merged batches of emails)
  4. No personalisation at all (Dear valued customer….)
  5. No option to unsubscribe
  6. No contact address
  7. Poorly designed or branded emails, completely at odds with that business’s usual corporate image

Here is a typical example of something I did not opt in to receive – and notice how our email system filters it!

spam email message

The examples above include a number of “no-nos” but points 1, 2, 5 and 6 are potentially breaking the law (marketing emails I did not sign up to receive and emails that I have unsubscribed from).

So, back to data protection. If you’re a B2C business, you have a responsibility to manage personal data properly generally. If you’re marketing to other businesses, the law is more lenient.

If you want to use email marketing to reach new audiences there are several things to bear in mind

1. You need prior permission to send emails for marketing purposes
2. There is some flexibility to this based on implied permission:

  • If you have collected an email address because you have done business with the individual (they’re a customer) or negotiated to do business with them previously
  • They have provided prior consent when in contact with you, by completing a form that means they can opt in or states that they will be contacted by email marketing but have the option to unsubscribe

3. You must always display a valid contact address and it should be clear to the recipient who the email is coming from.
4. You must include an option to unsubscribe from any email marketing communications you send

In general the law is harder if you’re marketing to individuals and does not address business-to-business communications in the same way. But we think that businesses should be treated in a similar way – you should have prior consent whether through the course of networking or doing business with them.

Finally, all of the above is common sense for good marketing practice. The way you carry out email marketing is no different from other marketing activity, reflecting your brand (hopefully) how you’d want it to be seen.

For full details on the points above you can visit this section of the ICO website.

Karen McNulty

Karen joined Media Matters in 2007. She is an accredited trainer and Chartered Marketer (with the CIM) and has worked in the sector for over 20 years. She is passionate about technology and loves to keep up with new innovations and trends around Digital Transformation, digital marketing and cloud computing. A strategic, dynamic and innovative senior digital marketer, Karen has a rich and varied portfolio of experience in a variety of disciplines, industries and verticals.

Karen actually left us to pursue her interest in IT for a two year spell but couldn’t keep away! She has returned full of beans to raise the profile of digital and cloud marketing opportunities for business. Her role as operations director covers all things “techie" both in house and with on-boarding clients.