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Running an email campaign is a lot like taking a swing for the fences in baseball. When things go your way, the home crowd – in this case your online audience – cheers wildly as you round the bases and enjoy the increased traffic that’s flowing into your website. Unfortunately, as any email or baseball guru will tell you, stepping up to the plate, or inbox, with a perfect batting average is just a myth. The reality is that it’s foolish to not have a plan for when you’re in a slump. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some simple tips you can employ as part of an email marketing “win-back” campaign. This way, you’ll have everything you need to reignite those conversion numbers and get your audience back into action after the excitement of your initial push slows down.

Add in a Solid Offer

One of the quickest ways to get your readers back into your campaign is to throw out a nice offer. At the top of the list, actual savings – anything that falls into the “X dollars off” range on your products and services – performs nearly two times better than any other return deal. However, regardless of whether it’s a limited time discount or free content like an eBook download, offering anything specifically for the people who have fallen off your brands marketing bandwagon can help right the ship and get them back to eagerly awaiting your regular emails.

Don’t Shy Away From Hard Data

When it comes to brand awareness and decision-making, too many people that pull the levers and knobs behind the campaign rely on the concept of “gut instincts.” Sure, in plenty of industries having a strong hunch or read on the company can take you a long way, but email marketing is a much more stats driven affair. With numbers on open rates, inbox activity, and a slew of other metrics, pinpointing the exact segments of your audience that aren’t responding, as well as what these individuals like, has never been easier or more readily available. Because of this, let the stats do all the heavy lifting in your win-back campaign and follow their lead. Not only will this help increase your response rate, it can save you a ton of time and money developing and rolling out these messages.

Never Write Anyone Off

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to starting up one of these re-engagement initiatives is to assume that portions of your inactive audience are off limits. While it might seem like a long shot to get back in touch with the people who haven’t opened one of your emails in months, the truth of the matter is that win-back campaigns can drum up interest with customers who haven’t responded in up to 300 days. Basically, it’s never too late to get things rolling again, even with the most unlikely of candidates.

Not surprisingly, the same holds true for the time that comes after you fire off these win-back emails. As long as the reader hasn’t opted out, there’s nothing stopping you showing that persistence is a virtue with this group of out-of-touch consumers. Considering that you just might one day pique their interest enough to rekindle a connection with your brand, it’s well worth the effort of covering every nook and cranny of your contact list, no matter how unlikely the lead might seem.

Your Subject Lines Matter More Than Ever

If you’re familiar with a large portion of the posts on this blog, you’re well aware of just how powerful the subject line is when it comes to enticing customers to dig a little deeper into your marketed messages. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that having optimized and powerful headings in this area is crucial to a great win-back campaign. To help you get there, skip the caps button and generic terms, like “urgent” or “final notice,” and focus more on explaining just how valuable your offers for returning customers can be. This way, when your forlorn viewers sit down and start sifting through their messages, these emails can stick out on the preview pane for all the right reasons.

Build Toward a Follow-up

One of the biggest misconceptions about these types of campaigns is that once you re-engage your customers, you’re done with the work. Unfortunately, all this does is put you back into the same spot later on down the road. Instead of finding yourself in this endless engagement cycle, focus on working multi-level offers and follow-up requests into your campaign that keep your audience active and connected with your company. If you can do this, your customers will always have a great reason to keep your brand on their minds, ensuring that lost segments and lackadaisical contact list entries become a thing of the past.

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If you’ve read one blog about optimizing you’re marketed emails, it feels like you’ve read them all, right? With so much generic information floating around the web, the talk surrounding optimization has definitely grown a little stale. However, there’s one interesting part of the process that doesn’t seem to actually get much attention – the emergence of preview panes across mail platforms. Considering that this is the first look readers have at what you’re trying to show off, giving some serious attention to how your brand comes across in these little windows definitely makes sense. To help you make a great first impression in the preview pane, here are some smart tips for optimizing your messages when they take center stage on this limited screen real estate.

Put an Emphasis on Building Trust

Considering that the inbox can be a “Wild West” of sorts with so many scams and shady messages floating around, the best way to avoid having your emails hit the virtual trash bin is to make it readily apparent to your reader that the message they’re looking at is legit. This means showing off your brand logo and name prominently in a place that won’t be cut off in either vertical or horizontal preview panes. The top left corner of the message is your best bet if you’re aiming to keep things visible. By sticking to smart formatting like this, you can avoid turning off skeptical readers before they open your email.

Limit the Amount of Copy in the Preview Pane

While it might seem a little odd to skimp on the body of the message, having a solid brick wall of text in the preview pane isn’t the way to go about your email marketing campaign. Not only is this not an attractive way to showcase your deals and offers, it also cuts down on the chances of your audience seeing the really important parts of the message. Before firing off a new round of content, take a moment to think about everything that shows up in the preview pane. If you even have the slightest concern that something in this window might be extraneous, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and pull it. Otherwise, you could be kicking yourself when you realize that the first thing viewers see isn’t an enticing offer, but rather filler content that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

HTML is Your Friend

With 59 percent of users blocking images in their email clients, leaning heavily on external images isn’t a good idea in the preview pane. Sure, these images can help you track open rates, but they are most definitely suited for the body of the message. When possible, coding the portions of the message that popup in the preview pane with HTML is the best way to work around the rise of image suppression. Naturally, this might require a little extra work if you’re trying to keep your logo prominently displayed, but you’ll definitely be happy with results. After all, if you don’t like seeing those annoying red “X’s” that signify a blocked image in your inbox, what makes you think that your audience will like it when it comes to your marketed emails?

Avoid Link Overload

One of the most grievous faux pas your brand can inadvertently slip into is link overload. This means cramming excessive amounts of links into the space that shows up on a horizontal or vertical preview pane. Obviously, you’re going to need links to products, deals, or your homepage somewhere in the message. However, the real problem starts when all of these, and then a few more, end up crowding a preview page and turning it into a cluttered mess. Adding in that plenty of spam messages from shadier brands or scammers come jammed with links as well, doesn’t put your messages in good company that you’d be proud to keep anyways.

Focus on the Call to Action

Finally, the biggest thing your message can do in the preview pane is generate a powerful call to action. At the core of any marketing message that shows up in your audiences’ inboxes is an incentive to do something with your products or services. Whether it is a limited time offer or a handy guide for using these retail items in new and exciting ways, having a clear and concise call to action not only helps streamline your message as a whole, it also keeps your preview focused and enticing for viewers. Before worrying about images, content length, or anything else, making sure you have this fundamental piece of the puzzle in place in the best way to keep your message on track and give your readers all the reason they need to read on after the preview.

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Imagine this scenario: Your email audience is turning over rapidly, click and open rates are plummeting, and you have no clue how to fix this mess. It might not be your worst nightmare, but it has to be pretty high up on the list if you’re serious about the future of your online brand. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to give your email marketing campaign some much needed virtual CPR. With these five tips, you’ll have the tools in hand you need to say goodbye to sluggish results and reinvigorate a disinterested audience.

Don’t Go the Quantity Route without Quality

One of the biggest mistakes an email marketing campaign can make is to go the spam route. While quantity isn’t always a bad thing, emailing your database all the time with junk is a surefire way to turn off your viewers in a hurry. If you’re already trying to keep up the pace with lots of regular emails and that’s not working, consider scaling things back until you start pumping out content that’s worth reading. By refining what they’re reading and then upping your monthly and weekly messages, you can rebuild an audience that’s tired of having to sift through offerings that are better suited for the virtual trash bin.

Clean Up that Preview Text

Just like web pages that don’t bother filling out the meta description for entries on Google, Bing, and the other search engines, having weak preview text can wreak havoc on your email’s chances of getting opened. Think of it this way: if you’re checking your inbox while enjoying a morning cup of coffee, are you going to click on the email with sloppy text that doesn’t fit in the preview area, or the one with a clean, simple explanation of what’s inside? Unless you’ve got a thing for poorly optimized emails, you’re probably going to make the same choice as your audience and click on the email with tidy and enticing preview text.

Power Words and Numbers Go a Long Way

Taking this a step further, make sure that your subject lines, preview text, and headlines in the actual email really pop in the viewers’ eyes. While this sounds like a marketing buzzword deal, it’s actually a big reason why some email lists generate massive traffic and others find their way to the spam folder. Sensory and emotional words are the big draw here because they evoke response from viewers.

Instead of the bland “please read” approach, try telling your viewers what happens if they don’t read your email, or what they can gain by reading it. This way, you’re creating a call to action that gets them interested in what you’re actually promoting. Similarly, using digits instead of writing out numbers also stands out in an inbox. In fact, the “5″ in the headline of this post might have been the hook that got you to click on this tip list in the first place.

Time is Money

Time is money; it’s an old saying that’s mostly meant to teach people the value of a great work ethic, but in this case we can give it a new spin. Basically, when your viewers are reading your emails is just as important as what they’re actually reading. If you’ve got great content but can’t seem to generate any traffic off of it, it might be time to switch things up as far as when you’re shooting off these emails. Depending on your target audience, figuring out what time’s best might be a little tricky, but that’s nothing that some A/B testing or trial and error can’t sort out. Once you’ve got it figured out, you can check this box off of the list of potential problems that are keeping your readers disinterested.

Give Them Something Extra

Last, but certainly not least, is the tried and true concept of giving your audience more stuff to get them in your virtual storefront. If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with offering better discounts more often to liven up a flagging or stale email list. Considering that the alternative, facing turnover that hovers around a 33 percent a year average, is basically the last rites for any email list, it can’t hurt to see if giving an extra coupon or limited time offer here and there can help. Combined with all the other tips and tricks on this list, periodically putting these kind of “enhanced” promos out could be just the spark your list needs to come back to life and get your bottom line in the green again.

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6 Simple A/B Tests to Optimize Your Conversion Rate

Picture this scenario: Your email marketing campaign has started to see success in redirecting customers back to your site, but you feel like you could do better. So what now? If you’re looking for a useful tool to help decipher the best methods of gaining customers and increasing revenue, A/B testing is the way to go.

Of course, this process comes with a learning curve and a little trial and error to see what produces the best results. But when combined with a smart email marketing campaign, A/B testing can make a big difference in your online visibility. Think of it this way – the A/B test is like a science experiment. You ask yourself a question, create a hypothesis and test it out. If one version gets noticeably better results than the other, you know you want to continue with it.

Experiment with Your Call to Action

Start with a call to action, or CTA, that’s either on your home page or part of an email campaign. Typical CTAs include “buy now,” “get started,” or any other action that’s used to help get the user to interact with your promotional content or products. Web Designer suggests considering things like size, color, placement and clarity. Remember that you want your CTA to stand out and be easy to find, otherwise you can’t expect much of a response. Making it impossible to miss can come off as too pushy though, so you need to be careful to strike the right balance. Choosing the right color can be just as important. Marketing expert Paul Olyslager points out that colors evoke certain emotions and can therefore impact your conversion rate, so choose carefully.

Perhaps the biggest thing to consider when running an A/B test with your CTA is clarity. An effective CTA must be easy to interpret. Avoid vague terms, and include specifics like outcomes or timeframes.

Free Trials in the Place of Buy It Now

Shoppers naturally feel hesitant when considering a purchase from a site they are unfamiliar with. No one wants to spend money on a product they don’t like. To help combat this, try offering a free trial. Since there are no strings attached, shoppers will have a serious incentive to give your products a chance. If they don’t like the product, there’s no harm done and you’re likely to still build some good will you can capitalize on later. If they do like it, they can go on to purchase it after the trial. Naturally, this won’t work for certain products and services, but if you can support this process, it’s worth testing to see the impact it will have on your conversions.

Add a Trust Symbol

Savvy browsers are cautious when it comes to supplying websites with personal or financial information. We’re all aware of the perils of viruses and scams, so you can’t fault your shoppers for being careful. If you’re having trouble getting visitors to purchase what you’re selling, make sure the icon for your sites security is easily visible to reassure them that your site is legitimate and that you have taken the necessary precautions to safeguard their financial information. This can be a major selling point, especially if your products range on the pricey side. Showing off your security features reliably increases conversion rates and gains you return traffic from shoppers who feel comfortable on your pages and with your email marketing plan.

Include Opinions and Testimonials

Make room on your website for customer reviews and testimonials. Seeing what other people thought of the product, how it benefited them, or even the downsides can help potential customers weigh their options and feel more confident about the purchase. Perhaps the best part of testing out this process in conjunction with a strong email marketing operation is that having unsolicited testimonials that talk up the benefits of your products and services can do more for your brand image than other forms of advertising.

Tweak Your Headlines

Catchy headlines will draw attention to what you have to offer. More traffic means more opportunities for customers and increased revenue for your business. Headlines that draw attention may use numbers, keywords, or words that trigger an emotional response. Putting your headline into “how-to” or question form can also intrigue your viewers. Of course, avoiding the dreaded “run-on” headline is key to getting the most out of your first impression.

Don’t Ask Too Many Questions

Very few people actually look forward to undergoing long or tedious forms. If it is too much work to contact you, find out information or make a purchase, then the only thing that you can count on is more people skipping over your site and heading straight to your competitors. Keep your website forms simple and straight to the point. Having forms available on your website is essential to your business, but try not to overuse and abuse these tools. Test to figure out exactly what is needed for your customers to be able to communicate with you clearly and for you to be able to accurately meet fulfill their orders.

No website is perfect. Once you have a great email marketing plan, combine it with a great landing page and website. A/B tests will let you see what works and what doesn’t, so you can increase conversions and traffic rates. Using them regularly to refine your approach will help you keep your online marketing campaigns in peak condition.

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If you haven’t yet started a digital marketing campaign, one of the main reasons why might be a simple lack of knowledge in how to get started. Calling it a “campaign” doesn’t exactly help, especially when you associate the word with things like endless political campaigns which drag on for years. Relax, that’s not what you’re getting into!

The word “campaign” simply means a series of actions taken with a specific goal in mind. So a digital marketing campaign is just a series of actions you take for the purpose of marketing, using digital tools. It can be big or small, take a long time or a short time, can be focused on a subset of existing customers or can be aimed at a larger geographic area or a particular demographic.

To help you get started with your first digital marketing campaign, here are five ideas. If you have been creating marketing campaigns for a while, you can use this as a checklist for your next campaign to see if you can improve any areas.

1. Set your goal

Remember that a campaign is focused on the achievement of a goal. To have a great campaign, you need to first know what your goal is. Your goal will help you determine the best actions to take.

A marketing campaign goal is just like any other type of goal, in that the more specific you are in setting your goal the more specific your actions can be, and the better you will be able to determine your success. As an example, a personal goal to “lose weight” is not as good as “lose five pounds over the next six weeks.”  The first goal is so nebulous, it’s hard to know where to start or whether or not you’ve succeeded. The second goal, by contrast, has the definition of success built right in, which gives more motivation. Being more specific also gives a better starting point to look for information on how to reach the goal.

A digital marketing campaign also needs clear goals. “Gain more customers” or “get more followers on Facebook” is too vague. Be more specific, as in setting a specific sales target or specific number of email subscribers or Facebook followers. Whatever your ultimate goal is, whether it’s bigger sales numbers or a larger audience or anything else, think about what actions will take you toward it and how you can tell if you are succeeding. Then build those things into your campaign goal.

2. Decide What to Offer

Offering something of value is a great way to get attention for your campaign. Your offer should support your goal. For example, if you want to drive more sales, try offering a coupon or discount. If you want people to help spread the word about your company or brand, offer them something they can share with a friend. If you want to get more people on your mailing list, offer a special download for people who sign up for your newsletter.

Being specific helps here too. Simply advertising “a sale” will garner less attention than offering a specific product for a specific discount. Provide details about what you are offering and demonstrate the value of it to get more attention for your campaign.

3. Use Great Tools

Part of what makes a digital marketing campaign daunting for many people is not knowing how to handle the technical aspects of assembling an email newsletter, maintaining a mailing list, or measuring results. These are indeed big tasks, and many business owners or volunteer coordinators don’t have the opportunity to develop the skills and experience necessary. This is where partnering with an expert source of great marketing tools comes in. Using a service to handle all of the technical details will enable you to focus on your message and your customers, making the process of setting up your campaign much faster and easier.

4. Measure Results

When you have a goal and you’ve set your campaign into motion, you need to know whether or not it works. This means having some specific measurement by which you can tell if your campaign is reaching people and engaging them in the way you want it to.

The way you will measure success will depend on your actual campaign. For example, if you want to have more sales, that’s clearly what you need to measure. But there are other things you can measure as well, outside of your primary goal. For example, do you have a way to tell how many people read your newsletter? Can you determine how many customers were prompted to make purchases based on your marketing campaign? Even if you don’t meet your primary goal, the more data you gather about your campaign, the more you can learn from it to improve future efforts.

5. Evaluate and Plan Ahead

Finally, when your campaign has run its course, evaluate the results. If you met your goal, that’s great! You have an example of what works and experience at setting up a first campaign. If your campaign fell short in some respect, that’s okay too. Celebrate whatever success you attained, and then analyze the total results. Decide what worked the best and what fell short. Use that information to plan for future marketing efforts, both via digital means and otherwise.

Setting up a digital marketing campaign can be a big step toward increased success in many areas of your business or organization. Even if you’ve never done it before, it doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. Give it a try with a small campaign to get your feet wet, as the saying goes, and before you know it you’ll be making great campaigns and reaching more people than ever.

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When it comes to your customers, you probably wish you had a way to read their minds and find out what they really want from a great marketing campaign. Unfortunately, the technology required to tap into personal thoughts isn’t quite on the market. Instead, you’ll have to rely on some more indirect, yet still effective methods to get the job done. At the top of this list is the email survey. With this tool in hand, your company can gain some serious insight into the inner workings of the collective conscious of your targeted audience – provided you go about the process in the correct manner. To make sure you get the most out of your survey, take a moment to look over some of the finer points of gauging consumer interest with this method.

Plan a Smart Survey

To start the process, look at what goes into an effective survey. According to Qualtrics, a data management and collection firm, a strong survey hits on four prime measurements via the compiled questions. Perceived quality, which helps define what the customer received, is the most important factor according to this firm. From here, gauging consumer loyalty – specifically if the customer would recommend your brand to friends and family – as well as the important details that led to their final decision on a purchase, come up next. Finally, checking for the potential for repeat business rounds out the process and gives you an idea of where your products and services currently stand with the shopper.

Get Creative with Your Survey

Once you have the basic question outline in hand, the next step in building a great customer survey to ship out after your email marketing campaign centers around engaging your reader’s curiosity and interests. While many companies understand the proper line of questioning to extract this information, they drop the ball with a dull and boring survey. To avoid having your email offering fall flat on its face, think about how you can spice up your survey to draw in the interest of the shopper.

Incorporating something fun, useful, or creative is the key to hammering this point home. For instance, look at a recent offering from online fashion boutique ModCloth. This design shop quickly realized that most of their customers probably weren’t that interested in a boring email that contained a generic marketing survey. Instead, the company repackaged this questionnaire into a fun and engaging style quiz that gathered the same information, but received a considerably larger amount of responses than what it expected from a typical survey. Naturally, tailoring this offering to your industry will require a little creative thinking. However, you can guarantee that your customers will take note of your hard work and reward you with this valuable information accordingly.

Ensure an Ongoing Process

Of course, a survey doesn’t do you much good if you simply roll it out once and waste the information you’ve gathered. With this in mind, Entrepreneur.com suggests that to get the most out of your email marketing and consumer survey approach, take action when you can. This means adjusting your offerings and services to boost consumer interest and letting these shoppers know you care about their opinions. A great way to do this is with a follow-up email detailing your company’s appreciation of their involvement and a description of upcoming changes and improvements to your products and services.

With all of this information on your side, rolling out a strong survey can give you all the tools you need to keep up with your targeted audience. To start, plan a survey that keys in on top concerns like consumer loyalty and the perceived quality of your products and services. Once you have this in hand, finding a fun or creative way of getting your message across can help you get more responses and help ensure that you keep your customers engaged and providing information as new iterations of your survey hit their inboxes.

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For the most complete information about CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)
please review the complimentary

Elite Email CASL Survival Guide

It took nearly 10 years of hard work and much debate, but Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (known as CASL, or Bill C-28 for those that like to get technical) now has a start date.

All marketers in Canada and elsewhere need to circle July 1, 2014 on their calendars because this is the milestone moment when arguably the world’s toughest spam law will take effect.

It’s been a long journey for this game-changing piece of legislation that has it’s original roots way back in 2004 when the Task Force on Spam was established. Canada was on a mission to wage war on unsolicited email (…cue the fight music…!). After much effort, the bill gained Royal Assent in December 2010 but that set off a slew of debates, complaints, concerns and general wariness about whether this new law would actually afford Canadian inboxes with more protection or just add to the administrative burden of businesses.

On November 28, 2013, the Treasury Board of Canada President (and all around anti-spam superhero), Tony Clement approved the final Industry Canada regulations. These final regulations will be published in The Canada Gazette on December 18, 2013, but at this point we essentially know what is covered.

Yesterday, on December 4, 2013, Industry Minister James Moore announced that Canada’s anti-spam law (CASL) will come into force on July 1, 2014 with these wise words:

Our government does not believe Canadians should receive emails they do not want or did not ask to receive. These legislative measures will protect consumers from spam and other threats that lead to harassment, identity theft and fraud. We are prohibiting unsolicited text messages, including cellphone spam, and giving Canadian businesses clarity so they can continue to compete in the online marketplace.”

This announcement gives marketers 6 months to whip their mailing lists & other databases into shape to ensure CASL compliance.

For those that want to really get into the nitty-gritty details, CASL is actually being rolled out in a phased deployment. Although the bulk of the CASL regulations that impact marketers will take effect on July 1, 2014, there are some components only taking effect down the road.

Here is the technical breakdown from the official order:

  • July 1, 2014 as the day on which sections 1 to 7, 9 to 46, 52 to 54, 56 to 67 and 69 to 82 of the Act, subsections 12(2) and 12.2(2) of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, as enacted by section 83 of the Act, subsection 86(2), section 88 and subsection 89(1) of the Act come into force;
  • January 15, 2015 as the day on which section 8 of the Act comes into force; and
  • July 1, 2017 as the day on which sections 47 to 51 and 55 of the Act come into force.

Based on this, it would appear that starting in July 2014 the government is enforcing the administrative monetary penalty for those that violate the new set of rules. It should be noted there are actually three government agencies tasked with enforcing CASL: Competition Bureau of Canada, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, & Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Then, in July 2017, things go a bit broader because individuals will be able to apply to the courts to seek compensation for CASL violations. Of course, things may change between now and then, but certainly having individuals file CASL claims takes things to a whole new level because now anyone and everyone can be enforcer of the stringent new rules.

CASL Timeline:

  • May 25, 2010 :: Bill C-28 First Reading
  • Dec. 15, 2010 :: Royal Assent (Passed)
  • July 2011 :: Regulations Drafted
  • July 2011 :: Regulations “gazetted” for Review
  • Sept. 7, 2011 :: Draft Regulations Comment Deadline
  • Mar. 2012 :: CRTC Regulations Gazetted
  • Jan. 5, 2013 :: Industry Canada Draft Regulations Published for Comment
  • Mid 2013 :: Industry Canada Final Regulations
  • July 1, 2014 :: CASL Takes Effect (or at least the majority of the rules)
  • January 15, 2014 :: CASL Rules Related to Installing Computer Programs Takes Effect
  • July 1, 2017 :: CASL Rules Related to People Bringing CASL Violations to the Courts Takes Effect

CASL is not something that can be ignored. So, if you’re one of those marketers who has been turning a blind eye to this, secretly hoping that the new law would never rock your world, then it’s time to wake up and face the music. The penalties for violations are intense (… Canada is not messing around with this!…) and can go as high as a $1 million fine for an individual or $10 million for companies.

Or, maybe you’re the marketer in the USA (or any other country) who is saying “Oh Canada…. who cares about their rules, they don’t effect me…”. Well, you are wrong. Very very wrong. The new regulation doesn’t only effect Canadian organizations, it effects anyone who sends a commercial electronic message (CEM) that is accessed from a device in Canada. What this means is that if you’re a retail store in Florida, but you’ve got some folks on your mailing list who live in Canada (and probably visited your establishment when escaping the cold Canadian winter), then CASL is fully in effect when you message them. The CRTC (in Canada) will be working closely with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the USA to enforce the new laws. So, playing the “but I’m in America” card, will not work!

It should also be noted that CASL isn’t just an “email” law (similar to the CAN-SPAM Act), it covers other digital channels such as text messages (SMS). That means becoming CASL-compliant isn’t an exercise focused exclusively on email mailing lists, but other databases as well.

Show Me The Money Consent

Is it still OK to be using quotes from Jerry Maguire? I figure if CASL started in 2004, then referencing a movie from 1996 is fair game…. and, I’m going to use that to drive home the point that what people are going to be talking about in regards to the new CASL rules is consent, consent, consent.

So much of the new regulations are rooted in acquiring proper express consent to ensure you are only sending messages to people that specifically asked for them. Gone are the days of tricking people into joining your mailing list; gone are the days of having a small pre-checked box that secretly said “receive future emails”; and really gone are the days of doing anything that is not out in the open and super obvious. Keep in mind, the goal of CASL isn’t to stop the use of email/SMS for commercial messages, the goal is to make sure that people only get the messages they asked for.

It should be mentioned that there is no special “grandfather” clause for existing databases. Just because you’ve been emailing someone, does NOT mean you can continue emailing them if you haven’t gotten affirmative consent. This means you need to comb back through your database and anyone you don’t have a really solid opt-in paper trail for, you will need to re-confirm.

There are certainly some exemptions to the new intense explicit consent rules, but the majority of these won’t apply in a typical email marketing or text message marketing scenario. Exemptions include:

  • Messages between organizations that already have a relationship
  • Messages sent internally within an organization
  • Messages sent on behalf of registered charities
  • Messages sent on behalf of a political party or political candidate
  • Messages sent based on a referral made by a third party (although the third party must be disclosed)
  • Messages sent to existing family and personal relationships (phew, your mom can’t sue you for $1 million for inviting her to Sunday brunch!)

OK, I Get It… This is Serious…. What Do I Do Now?

First, take a deep breath. So many marketers are going into panic mode and that is both unnecessary and not helpful.
You still have 6 months to get organized, so we’re not in an emergency situation.

In my previous post All About CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) in Plain English I have an entire section about what you should be doing to prepare. That to-do list is still very accurate and will certainly provide an excellent starting point on the road to becoming CASL compliant.

I should also mention that if you are a customer of Elite Email with a signup form (or link to Subscription Center) on your website, then you are already following the proper double opt-in process that CASL requires. After someone signs up through that form/link, they are sent a welcome/confirmation email to double-check they want to join your list. We capture that confirmation consent, date stamp, and log the IP, so you have that paper trail automatically. On the mobile marketing side, we have already made updates in response to the recent TCPA Guidelines, which really overlaps a lot with CASL in relation to SMS/text-message marketing. This means you can easily enable a double opt-in process on your mobile channels as well.

Will This End Up Being Good For Legitimate Marketers?

For now this new set of regulations is going to add a lot of work for marketers…. and no one likes “extra work”. So, in the short term, there will be grunts and groans.

However, there is a school of thought that once all the dust settles and everyone gets off the ledge (don’t jump!), legitimate marketers will actually have a better & easier time of getting their message through. Since non-compliant messages will be weeded out, we’re going to end up in an era where people really only get the emails they asked for. This means that the average consumer won’t have to sift through unwanted email to find your wanted message. It may only be your fully CASL compliant message sitting in their inbox, where they can eagerly see it, open it, and interact with it. Of course, only time will tell whether there is a net ROI gain for marketers who may see their list size decrease but engagement increase, but certainly there does remain a silver lining as everyone works towards implementing CASL compliance.

CASL Goes Live July 1, 2014

This blog post is intended to provide our general comments on the new law. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review nor is it intended to provide legal advice. Readers should not act on information in the publication without first seeking specific advice from their lawyer. In short, I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be a lawyer.

 

I’m a big fan of podcasts… but I’m even a bigger fan when that podcast features our CEO, Robert Burko talking all about email marketing.

This week Robert was a featured guests on the Entrepreneur Podcast Network.

The interviewer, Eric Dye, covers the following key email marketing questions:

  • Is email marketing as effective as it used to be?
  • Which businesses or organizations should be doing email marketing?
  • What are some tactics a small business can use to grow their permission-based (opt-in) mailing list?
  • Is it complicated to get started sending an email newsletter?
  • What makes for a highly effective email campaign?
  • … and more!

You can listen to the interview here:

You can checkout the page on the ePodcast Network here: http://epodcastnetwork.com/elite-email-offering-cloud-based-email-marketing-solutions/

 
For the most complete information about CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)
please review the complimentary

Elite Email CASL Survival Guide

If you’re an email marketer you have undoubtedly heard of CASL, which is the acronym for “Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation”.

Does this new set of rules apply to you? YES!
Do you need to care about it? YES
Do you understand it? Well, uhh, hmm, kind of, maybe….

There’s lots of information about CASL already available online, but a lot of it is complicated, often riddled with legal jargon, and frankly just not written in plain English so you can gain some sort of handle on what this is all about. That is why we have customers calling us and saying they’ve read all about the new laws, but don’t understand it and are more confused when they started.

Let’s fix that and get you up to speed on the who, what, where, when and why of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation!

What is CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)?

CASL is the Canadian Government’s new weapon (or so they hope) in the fight against spam. It outlines new requirements and rules for how commercial electronic messages (CEM) are sent. The highlight reel for the goals of CASL are to prohibit:

  • Spamming (…I’m a prince from a far off land, can I borrow your bank account to park my billions of dollars…) [section 6]
  • Hacking (… imagine what I could do if I controlled your computer…) [section 7]
  • Malware / Spyware (…you didn’t know it, but you just installed a program on your computer so prepare for nonstop pop-up banner ads…) [section 8]
  • Fraud (… this week we’re having a 75% off sale… but surprise, it’s really only 15%….) [section 75]
  • Harvesting (… I’ll build a big email database by grabbing every email address ever published on the web…) [section 82 (2)]
  • Privacy Invasions (… I’ll just help myself to all of your personal information even without your permission…) [section 82 (3)]

The stated purpose of the law is: “An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy.”

Does This Law Affect Me?

Are you sending email from Canada? If so, the answer is yes.

Are you sending email to anyone in Canada even if you are located somewhere else? If so, the answer is yes.

The reason CASL could have a huge impact is because of this second question. The law is not just limited to Canadians, it takes effect any time a Canadian computer is used to access the email (or any commercial electronic message). So, if you’re in the USA, but your email newsletter also goes to those north of the border, then all these rules apply. Even if you’re somewhere overseas, the claim is that CASL is still in force.

This is what Andrea Rosen, the CRTC’s chief compliance and enforcement officer said:

If the spammer is offshore, we have the ability under the law to co-operate with foreign governments, to share information and to bring proceedings together against individuals that are offshore.

I don’t want to go into this quote too much…. but…. (please read this with the highest degree of saracasm)… good luck Canada!
I look forward to hearing about the case: CRTC vs. Random Spammer X located in a cave in a far off land sending emails about the best ways to enlarge your (use your imagination)

The funny thing is that all those “buy drugs from Canada” spam messages we receive usually aren’t sent from within Canada, so the enforcement is going to require this offshore cooperation. Again, good luck Canada!

It should be noted that there is a special exemption in CASL if the sender does not know or could not expect to know that the receiver was in Canada.

What are the main requirements of CASL?

The entire law is long (really long), but in a nut shell, these are the key requirements:

  • Permission must be obtained before sending email.
  • The permission must be able to be proved with clear consent.
  • No pre-checked boxes on forms. The consent must be an affirmative action. [<< Make sure you take note of this for any forms you use!]
  • No false or misleading subject lines or from names. The sender must be clearly defined.
  • Working unsubscribe mechanism. Any unsubscribe requests must be processed within 10 days and the unsubscribe link must be valid for 60 days after the send date.
  • You are not allowed to confirm unsubscribes by sending an “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe?” email.
  • Must include a valid postal mailing address (P.O boxes are fine) and one of the following: web address with contact form, email address or phone number.
  • If you are sending “on behalf of” another organization, both organizations must be identified.

It should also be noted that charity organizations are included in CASL if they are selling or soliciting anything.
If you’re an existing customer of Elite Email, then your email marketing activities are already abiding by a lot of these requirements.

What is Exempt from CASL?

There are a variety of things that are specifically excluded from the rules outlined in CASL. My theory is that this list will be expanded before things are finalized, but here are the main exemptions right now:

  • Email between family or people you have a personal relationship with (… phew, you won’t go to prison for emailing your aunt!)
  • Employees at one company emailing employees of another company, if the companies have a business relationship.
  • Responding to an inquiry that could be in the form of a question, complaint or solicitation.
  • Work-related emails sent between employees at the same company.
  • If someone requests more information from your company (could be for a quote, estimate, general information, membership inquiry, etc) then you can reply to them.
  • A charity can contact someone if they made a donation in the past 18 months.
  • Any legal message relating to a recall, copyright notice, or debt collection request.
  • One non-consent email can be sent for third party referrals provided that the person/organization making the referral has either a non-business or personal relationship with the recipient and sender. On top of that, the sender must clearly state who made the referral.
  • Transactional emails that do not contain any marketing language (<– We’re for sure going to see this further clarified.)

How Does CASL Define Consent?

The underlying key to CASL is consent, consent, consent. You just cannot do anything without consent.

CASL has mapped out four different circumstances that would qualify as consent.

  • Explicit Consent
    This is when the recipient gives you direct permission to email them. For example, if someone signs up for your mailing list using an online signup form that would qualify as explicit consent. But, remember, this type of consent cannot be obtained through opt-out, so make sure you don’t pre-check the “Yes, I want your mailings” box because that voids everything (… and then you do not pass go, do not collect $200, and you go straight to jail).
    You can also get oral or written consent, but this starts to get tricky because you have to be able to prove that consent was obtained. If you’re planning on getting consent using these methods, make sure you document everything very carefully so you can provide your case if it comes to that.
  • Implied Consent
    This type of consent takes the form of an existing business or non-business relationship between the sender and recipient. In the eyes of CASL, a “business relationship” is one where a customer has made a purchase from you or entered into a contract. A “non-business relationship” would be if someone does volunteer work for you or actually becomes part of your organization.
    One really important thing to note is the “2 Year Rule”. If someone purchased something from you in the past 2 years, then you can send them emails for 2 years from their purchase date under the implied consent criteria. However, during that time you must obtain explicit consent if you want to email them after the two years. Keep in mind that if this same person buys from you again during the two year period, the clock resets and you’ve got two more years before you need explicit consent.
  • Conspicuous Publication
    This is definitely an interesting part of the current draft of CASL. If you obtain someone’s email address and it meets these criteria, then you have qualified as having enough consent to email them. (1) Their email address is clearly published for viewing; (2) The address is not accompanied by a statement saying that they do not want to receive unsolicited messages; (3) the message is directly related to the person’s business or official role.
    Two important things to be aware of is that the clear publishing of the person’s email address must be done by the person directly or with the authorization of the person. So, a company website that lists an employee roster is legit, but some random website that posts a bunch of contact info is not OK. Also, the email you send must be highly related to the person’s job/role , which is very vague in the current draft. But, as an example, you can email a lawyer about a new law book, but you cannot email them about the cool new t-shirts you’re selling.
    The last thing on this topic is to keep in mind that PIPEDA prohibits the harvesting of addresses, so you cannot use a program to automatically capture this information from the web.
  • Shared Email Address with the Sender
    I call this the “business card” rule. If someone gives you their business card then you can email them stuff that is related to their job/role. Of course, they can also give you their email address in other ways, but the main thing is that they are willingly supplying you with their email address and not saying that they do not want to receive emails from you. Although, I can tell you that if someone hands you their business card and says “don’t email me” that probably isn’t a really good sales lead.

When Does It Take Effect?

Before we look at where we’re going, lets take a look back at where CASL has been:

  • May 25, 2010 :: Bill C-28 First Reading
  • Dec. 15, 2010 :: Royal Assent (Passed)
  • July 2011 :: Regulations Drafted
  • July 2011 :: Regulations “gazetted” for Review
  • Sept. 7, 2011 :: Draft Regulations Comment Deadline
  • Mar. 2012 :: CRTC Regulations Gazetted
  • Jan. 5, 2013 :: Industry Canada Draft Regulations Published for Comment
  • Mid 2013 :: Industry Canada Final Regulations
  • Mid 2014 (maybe?) :: CASL Takes Effect

So, the answer to when CASL will go live is still a topic of much debate. (Insert gasp here that the Canadian government moves slowly!)

CASL was recently delayed for a few reasons:

  • Still ironing out details as there are many unhappy parties (more on this later)
  • There is disagreement between Industry Canada and the CRTC about how the law should be regulated
  • There are expected mid-term cabinet changes and these shifts could skew priorities.

If you really want to make a note in your calendar, then current speculation is that the law will not be enforced until the Fall of 2014. This follows a one year grace period after everything is published this year. However, don’t be surprised if this gets delayed yet again.

On top of that, CASL will have a transition period once it comes into effect so that organizations have ample time to obtain the neccessary consent to ensure they are playing by these new rules.

What is the Penalty for Violating CASL?

Canada’s anti-spam law is not fooling around when it comes to the punishment for breaking the rules.

Penalties for violations can range from up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for companies.

Three interesting things to note about the enforcement of this are:

  • Any person can bring this law against a sender up to $1 million. But, if they are found to be incorrect, they will be required to pay court/legal fees. So, it’s not like if you avoid sending emails to the RCMP you can avoid getting in trouble because anyone can make a claim under this new legislation.
  • If you can demonstrate that you made very strong efforts (due diligence) to comply with all the rules and done everything to obtain proper consent, then that will play a factor in the event a lawsuit comes up. It is for this reason that it’s super important you keep track of everything so you can cover yourself later with a stronger case if things get messy.
  • Officers of an organization can also be held accountable for the messages sent out by their organization. Bottom line, YOU are responsible if you do bad things.

What is the Difference Between CASL and the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act?

There’s a long list of differences between these two sets of regulations, but the major differences are:

  • CASL requires express consent to send commercial messages. Basically, the recipient must “opt in” as opposed to the CAN-SPAM Act that mandates “opt out”. So, under the US law, you can send someone a first email as long as they can request no further messages, whereas under the Canadian law even that first email has you breaking the rules.
    Note: Email marketing best practices already encourages the opt in procedure as opposed to opt out.
  • CASL requires specific disclosure when an organization requests consent. Senders must clearly state the reason they are requesting consent, clearly identify themselves, provide contact information, and explain that consent can be withdrawn later. None of this appears in the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • The coverage for CASL covers email, text messages, instant messages, directly pushed social media messages, and installation of computer programs. The CAN-SPAM Act covers email.

 What Should You Be Doing to Prepare for CASL?

The good news is that if you are a customer of Elite Email, then you are already doing most things to comply with CASL. Built right into our online email marketing software is a process that makes sure you’re covered on a lot of these items. But, there are still some things I want to highlight so you’ve got a good checklist of items on your radar that you can be aware of.

  • Consent, consent, consent… it’s all about consent! We want to have bulletproof iron-clad proof that we’ve obtained consent properly and legitimately.
    • Record all sign-ups from your website.
    • Capture and record the IP address when the signup is first initiated and later confirmed.
    • Document how your relationship with someone began. Did they purchase from you? Did they signup online for your newsletter?
    • If you’re getting oral or written consent, make sure it’s something you can later prove. (This could be a challenge, so online signups or something with a digital papertrail is better.)
  • Take a detailed look at your database and try to figure out who you need to re-confirm with proper provable consent.
    • Are there customers who purchased from you 2 years ago that you won’t be able to email if they don’t re-confirm?
    • Are there contacts where you’d have a hard time proving their consent?
    • Are there contacts who haven’t engaged with your emails (opened or clicked) in a long time? If so, try to re-engage them or take them off your list.
  • When someone signs up for your mailing list, send them a welcome email to verify their subscription.
    • This double opt-in or closed-loop subscription process is important not only to comply with CASL, but also to make sure that a sneaky individual didn’t come to your website and signup using their arch enemies email address…. because then you might get spam complaints as well.
  • Make sure your subject lines and sender names are correct, clear and consistent. (The three “C’s” if you will.)
  • Have a working unsubscribe link and valid contact details so someone can reach you if they want to.
    • This includes monitoring replies you receive from your email so if someone says “remove me”, then you can do it right away.
    • Sending your emails from a no-reply address is a BAD thing.
  • Make sure your postal address is in your emails.
  • Take a look at your privacy policy as it relates to data collection to ensure it’s up-to-date and aligned with all the new CASL rules.

Remember that CASL is still evolving and being refined. No one knows yet exactly what the final set of rules will look like. So, while the above steps will keep your best foot forward, make sure you keep an ear to the ground so that if something does change you are not caught off-guard. Rest assured, the compliance team at Elite Email is also all over this!

What Are Some of The Criticisms of CASL?

There’s been a lot of backlash since CASL was originally proposed. For instance, there was a two month consultation period (ending on Sept. 7, 2011) where 55 different organizations raised their concerns to Industry Canada. As a result of that, a revised regulation was published on Jan. 5, 2013, but the criticisms certainly have not stopped.

I don’t want to go too much into this, however if you want to read more, Marketing Magazine has a good article titled “The Hidden Costs of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law“.

The one over arching theme from everyone who is complaining about this is not that they are against stopping spam. Everyone is on-board with stopping spam as no one needs more junk mail. The criticism is that this new law will do nothing to actually stop spam. It enforces a new, broad and strict set of rules on organizations that are already trying to do things properly, while really doing nothing to stop the worst offenders who are sending spam from a far off land. So, CASL is giving us more red tape and hoops to jump through, but what is it actually doing to benefit Canadian citizens?

On top of that, many in the small business community are outraged because to some it feels like these new laws put up serious barriers to using email effectively because they cannot afford to invest resources to wade through all the red tape. There has been a shift from sending paper flyers through Canada Post to email because it’s more effective, more measurable, more affordable, and definitely more environmentally conscious (to the joy of trees everywhere!). But, if the Canadian Government wants to clamp down on what can be sent through email, will it result in more junk filling up your physical mailbox?

Personally I think there are some good parts of CASL. In certain spots of the legislation you can really see the positive intent of what they are trying to accomplish. But, it’s gotten so bloated with this scenario and that scenario, that I fear the true intent is getting lost and in realty it may only result in punishing the people who were doing everything 99% correctly anyway.

You can get more information direct from the Canadian government at http://fightspam.gc.ca.

CASL - Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation

 

This blog post is intended to provide our general comments on the new law. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review nor is it intended to provide legal advice. Readers should not act on information in the publication without first seeking specific advice from their lawyer. In short, I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be a lawyer.

 

We have lots of customers who use their iPads in commercial/business settings.

It’s just so incredibly practical for some many reasons. Specifically, we have many people who use their iPads by their cash register, checkout counter, or at events to get people’s email address and grow their opt-in mailing list. An app like OnSpotSocial, for example makes it easy to capture new emails and then import them into your Elite Email account.

I’m always a big fan of having people type directly onto an iPad as opposed to hand-writing on a piece of paper because you get a huge jump in the accuracy of your data. I mean, there are times I can barely read my own hand-writing, let alone trying to decipher someone else’s scribbles where even one wrong character results in a bounce to an invalid address (…or worse yet, sending the email to a different person and getting a spam complaint).

One of the main problems with an iPad in these commercial settings is that people can walk up to your iPad and exit the app you wanted it to be in. Worse yet, these sneaky individuals can then change around settings on your iPad… and surprise, your iPad is in Portuguese! On top of that, they can delete your apps or a whole bunch of other things you wouldn’t want them doing.

So, the question becomes, how can I safely lock my iPad in my one desired app and prevent people from changing to something else?
… great question!

Previously I would have recommended purchasing an iPad case that locked out the “home” and “power” button. After all, preventing someone from pressing these buttons does a pretty good job of limiting what they can do. This is still a viable option that might be worth exploring. You can check out iPadEnclosures.com for a variety of choices.

With the release of iOS6, we’ve got some new super convenient ways to keep your iPad locked in just one app. (…. thanks Apple!)

The new feature is called “Guided Access” and I’ll walk you through how to set this up with a nice visual tutorial.

One of the added benefits of guided access is that you cannot only lock out the hardware buttons (home & power), but also control what areas on the actual screen should be locked as well.

One thing worth mentioning is that this is not only handy for us business-folks using the iPad to engage with our customers, but also for parents who are letting their child use an iPad and want to keep them in just one app. After all, I may give my daughter the iPad to play the latest & greatest Elmo game, but she certainly starts to cry the moment she hits the wrong button and Elmo disappears. Now by following the steps below, I keep Elmo front and center all the time…no more tears! :)

Remember, you need iOS6 so if you’re using an iPad 1, you’re sadly out of luck.

Step 1: Click Settings

Lock iPad To One App - Step 1

Step 2: Go to “Accessibility” settings.

Lock iPad to One App - 2

Step 3: Select “Guided Access”.

Lock iPad to One App - 3

Step 4: Turn ON “Guided Access”

Lock iPad to One App - 4

Step 5: Click “Set Passcode”

Lock iPad to One App - 5

Step 6: Enter a 4 digit passcode.

Lock iPad to One App - 6

Step 7: Go into your desired app. (In my example, I’ll load Kayak.)

Kayak App

Step 8: Triple tab the iPad home button. (Press the button at the bottom of your iPad three times very quickly.)

Lock iPad to One App - 8

Step 9: You will now see the special “Guided Access” options appear. (Make sure at this point you are in your desired app!)

Lock iPad to One App - 9

Step 10: Use your finger to draw a circle or rectangle for the areas of the app that you want to disable/lock. Whatever you select will NOT be clickable/selectable by anyone using your iPad. This is often useful if you want to prevent people from accessing the “Settings” of an app or (in my example below) prevent accessing the navigation menu. You can skip this step if you do not need to restrict access to certain parts of the screen.

Once you are done, click “Start” to get things rolling!

Lock iPad to One App - 10

Step 11: Give yourself a pat on the back because you successfully enabled “Guided Access” on your iPad and locked everything down (including specific areas of the screen) to just one app. The “Home” and “Power” buttons will also be disabled.

Step 12: To EXIT “Guided Access” mode, simply triple click the “Home” button. Enter your passcode and you’ll be back at the “Guided Access” setup screen you saw before. Simply click the End button on the top left corner. Now everything will be back to normal.

Lock iPad to One App - 12

I hope this helps make using your iPad just a little easier!

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