Good on Australia’s ACMA for issuing this timely and detailed reminder that set and forget for email marketing best practice isn’t enough – you need to plan, set, check, plan, set… Here is there great clear minded advice on ensuring your email program is high quality and effective. The ACMA blog post is here.
Many businesses use email marketing templates that automatically incorporate their contact details and an unsubscribe facility; information that is required by the Spam Act. But it’s still important to test your campaigns to make sure everything is working properly. All too often, we encounter e-marketers who don’t know that their unsubscribe or contact details have ‘dropped off’ their template.
One of the most effective ways to protect your reputation is to do regular quality assurance checks of your e-marketing campaigns and processes.
Quality versus quantity
How you conduct quality assurance will depend on a number of things:
> the nature of your business
> your systems and resources
> the nature and number of e-marketing campaigns you conduct.
Ideally, every e-marketing campaign would be quality-assured, but in some cases this may not be possible. You need to weigh up the risks to your reputation if you breach the Spam Act and with the number or percentage of messages that you consider appropriate to review.
Quality assurance 101
Having overseen a number of enforceable undertakings and conducted a lot of investigations, we have a pretty good idea of what you might want to include in your quality assurance. Think about including the following steps.
1. Audit your campaigns
Your business may not have a single department or person handling all of your e-marketing activity, making it a real challenge to keep on top of the e-marketing rules. So we strongly recommend that your quality assurance includes an audit of all campaigns conducted:
> Record the total number of messages sent in the period.
> Keep a copy of each campaign (if possible), including the number of messages sent, format, date, sending address, subject and content.
> Keep records of which messages were sent to specific electronic addresses.
2. Confirm consent
A fundamental rule of the Spam Act is that your e-marketing messages must be sent with consent. Consider:
> how you gather consent
> what information you give to recipients when you collect consent
> how your system handles and records subscriptions, unsubscriptions and re-subscriptions
> how long you’ll rely on consent for, blacklisting, the consequence of making a purchase and your account management tools.
You should also review your current records. They should clearly identify if:
> A person has given consent—and also show that you have proof.
> A person has requested to be unsubscribed in the period—and if any further messages were sent more than five business days after that date.
> There are any patterns to be aware of—like someone consistently re-subscribing and then quickly unsubscribing.
> A person has bought an item from you—and the date of the purchase.
> A person has contacted your business.
3. Show your identity
Each e-marketing message must clearly identify who authorised the message and provide a way to contact the authoriser—either through information in the message or a direct web link.
4. Test your unsubscribe functionality
Defective unsubscribe facilities are one of the most common reasons people complain to the ACMA. It’s always a good idea to check (and check again!) that your unsubscribe facility is working properly:
> Confirm that each message includes a functional unsubscribe facility.
> Establish a process and timetable for testing the unsubscribe mechanism (and listen to complaints to identify any corner cases that your testing might not cover).
> Keep records of when you tested the unsubscribe facility and the outcome of the test.
5. Review complaints
Complaints can be a great source of information about potential problems and a chance to engage in direct conversation with your customers. Consider how you investigated each complaint and what you have done to fix these issues.
6. Offer training
Often problems with e-marketing arise because staff are not aware of the Spam Act. Do your policies, procedures and training need updating?
> Keep a note of any relevant training you or your staff have undertaken in the period.
> Consider the need for further training in problem areas identified through your quality assurance.
7. Form conclusions
Writing up the outcomes of your quality assurance gives you an ongoing record of when you got things right—or wrong. It demonstrates to your management—and to regulators like the ACMA—that you take compliance seriously. Follow these steps to make sure that your business’s e-marketing is above board:
> Record details of any issues identified in the audit and any necessary changes.
> Draft an overall outcome/conclusion of your quality assurance.
Any questions? We can help! Email us or call Jericho today.