When Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), Bill C-28, was passed in December 2010, almost no one took notice. Business groups such as the Canadian Marketing Association were still meeting with federal officials to see how the spirit of the law would be applied and regulated. Now that we are told the law should be effective in mid-2012, the challenge is to make sure your email marketing practices comply with the legislation.
In our earlier article, we explained the importance of obtaining consent in email marketing, but that is just the first step. To comply with the new law, you also need to keep track of this consent information in your database:
- Each new contact file must have a date to keep track of when and how the person began his/her relationship with your organization, distinguishing between he/she provided expressed and implied consent. For example, if a new prospect entered a draw by dropping off a card at your tradeshow booth, you should note the date and name of the show. Because there was no explicit interaction about continuing a relationship by email, this situation would be deemed implied consent and should be noted as such. This might look like this:
Doreen Ashton Wagner
Greenfield Services Inc.
624 Main Street South
Alexandria, ON K0C 1A0
Date Added: 02-09-2012
Source: Contest box, CME Show 2012
- On the other hand if you had a conversation with the new contact and he/she completed a form while at the show specifying they’d like to receive more information, the record should say so. In the above case, the notes might look like this:
Source: Lead form, CME Show 2012
- At present the law also says you are expected to keep supporting proof on file, including the statement to which the prospect consented. You should therefore keep a copy of the lead form referred to in the above.
Your database management system may not have specific fields to easily accommodate the new information. If you introduce a new system in the future, you’ll want to build CASL requirements into your plans. Until then, you can use user-defined fields or notes in a text box to keep the best records you can.
Once your records are organized, the next step is a plan for encouraging your contacts to convert from implied to expressed consent. This is important because if a contact only has provided implied consent, the CASL says you must cease all email communication two years after you originally made contact with the prospect. Otherwise they can lodge a complaint against you. The penalties for marketers found guilty of not following the rules have yet to be released, but it is clear that responsible event marketers will want to avoid this.
So how can you convert a prospect to express consent, thereby freeing you of restrictions? The easiest way is to convert them to a client. As they register for your conference, or sign their contract to secure your services, make sure they sign off on a clause giving your permission to continue communication by email.
If the contact is still a prospect, you can still obtain express consent by being a creative, yet respectful marketer:
- Ask for content preferences as soon as you send your first message. If you send each of your audiences the tailored information they need, at the frequency they prefer, and nothing more, you’ll be more likely to retain their confidence and their participation.
- Make it fun. Offer incentives to complete a profile and give express consent; these could range from a complimentary coffee card, to an entry in a contest, to a coupon for your services.
- Don’t always try to sell. Prospects will be happy to provide express consent if you give them value or advice to help them in their job. This could be educational material, access to a downloadable resource or an invitation to a free event or webinar.
- Reach out through non-electronic means. With email marketing it’s easy to forget that express consent doesn’t have to be secured electronically. Ask for express consent on sales calls, or at industry events. It’s as easy as getting someone’s autograph!
Still wondering why this is worth doing? Apart from staying within the law and preventing future complaints, a permission-based strategy will make you a more effective marketer and deliver better results.
In a future issue, we will explore creating inbound channel to keep your prospect lists well replenished. In the meantime, happy marketing!