Did you see that TV news report the other day about a guy who was jailed for sending out billions of email messages — better known as spam — trying to sell stuff for his “clients”? Everyone’s looking for new business these days, but it got me thinking about what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to marketing your products and services by mail or email.

I mean, is it okay to mail out to all your existing customers? Or to buy a mailing list for marketing purposes? And is there a difference between sending out email and “snail mail”? Well, if you’re thinking of using any of these approaches to drum up new business, here are a few things you ought to know:

  • It’s not illegal to send a message by mail or electronically to someone you know but ideally you should get permission from all of your customers to send them marketing messages from time to time.
  • If you want to send a mailshot, you can either buy a mailing list or get a fulfillment company to mail out for you, but it’s important to choose a reputable supplier that uses the national Do Not Mail List (a privately-run register) and the National Do Not Call Registry to filter out those who’ve registered with these organizations. (There’s no official Do Not Email registry, by the way.). Good companies also regularly “clean” their lists – that is, removing dud addresses.
  • Bulk mailing of printed marketing materials is expensive, so you should also work with a fulfillment house that uses lists that specifically target the audience profile you want to address.
  • You don’t need permission to send a bulk email message either, provided it is neither selling illegal goods not perpetrating a fraud. However, the message must contain an “unsubscribe” or opt-out option that must be honored within 10 days. It should also be accurate and contain a bona fide mailing address.
  • You might also want to consider using one of the social networks like Twitter or Facebook to promote your company and make contact with potential customers. But don’t pester them. Just “friend” or “follow” and let them decide if they want to reciprocate.

“Spam”, in the sense of unsolicited bulk email and instant messages, is not illegal per se. You can learn more about the dos and don’ts of spamming at this useful Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN-SPAM_Act_of_2003. This explains the principle requirements of the main anti-spam legislation in the US.

Most importantly, if you do spam people with your marketing message, there’s a high chance your reputation will pretty soon be in tatters, so my advice is not to do it! In fact, statistics show that it’s cheaper and more effective to work with existing customers when you embark on an expansion plan.

So, when you’re planning to grow your business, talk first to the people you know!


Blog courtesy of Royce Williams
Royce Williams Agency 615-356-4800