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Email Marketing For Beginners In The UK - The Rules You Must Know

by Jo Shaer, on May 12, 2015

email marketing rules ukYou've been collecting email addresses for your business database for ages. And now you want to start working that list!

The idea is to send out reminders of upcoming events and promotions to persuade potential customers to look at your website or poke previous customers into buying something else. Keeping your business top of their minds.

Unfortunately, what can end up happening is that you irritate the people on your list into deleting all your emails or even reporting you to your Internet Service Provider or the Independent Commissioners' Office.

I was reminded of this recently when a client sent me four promotional emails in the space of two days. With today's busy inboxes, it was too much.

And again when I received two unsolicited emails - one from someone I had sat next to once at a networking meeting the previous year and another from someone I had never met who had scraped my information from the website of a business group that I belong to.

In September 2013, new guidelines were issued to help people to understand about consent for electronic marketing under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

The rules for email marketing to an individual in the UK

The ICO (Independent Commissioners' Office) website is quite clear about the rules for email marketing.

As well as ensuring that any such data is stored securely, you must observe the regulations that govern marketing through unsolicited electronic mail. The most important of which is that the individual you are targeting must have given you their permission to send them messages via electronic means - this includes emails, texts, picture and video marketing messages. It also covers messages sent through apps by WAP Push and marketing messages left by voicemail and answerphone. Faxes, however, are not included.

[Tweet "What UK laws govern the sending of unsolicited marketing emails AND texts AND VOICEMAILS?"]

Rule 22 says:

[question ask="You cannot transmit, or instigate the transmission of, unsolicited marketing material by electronic mail to an individual subscriber unless they have previously notified you, the sender, that they consent, for the time being, to receiving such communications."][/question]

What is an individual?

According to the Forum of Private Business, an individual is a residential subscriber, a sole trader or a non-limited liability partnership in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What constitutes a corporate subscriber

These are corporations, limited companies, a limited liability partnership in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and any partnership in Scotland.

Why many email marketers are breaking the rules of electronic mailing

This is a crucial point of the rule which many marketers fail to understand. They say it is ok to send out unsolicited email from a business to a business.

What they have missed is that, whilst limited companies are fair game, sole traders are viewed as being individuals.

The Forum of Private Business reveals that 74% of small businesses are run by a sole trader.

[Tweet "74% of small businesses are a sole trader. Are you sending emails without their consent?"]

The Soft Opt in

However, the 'soft opt-in' can be applied as an exception to this rule providing:

you've obtained a person's details in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale of a product or service;
the messages are only marketing similar products or services; and

the person is given a simple opportunity to refuse marketing when their details are collected and, if they don't opt out at this point, has a simple way to do so in future messages.

Email marketing business to business

Whilst the rules on consent, the soft opt-in and the right to opt out do not apply to emails sent to info@ or admin@ email addesses of companies and other corporate bodies, the sender must still identify itself and provide contact details.

However, if you are sending your marketing messages to a personal corporate email like, the latest pdf on direct marketing from the ICO reveals that individual employee will have the right under section 11 of the DPA to stop any marketing being sent to that type of email address.

Why EMail Marketing with an Autoresponder is the best way

Third party auto responders like Dotmailer, Mailchimp and AWeber are set up to comply with these regulations. They ensure that your emails remind people how they got onto your list in the first place. But they also have a proper way in which readers can opt out or unsubscribe from your list.

They protect the recipient and give the reader the control.

[cta_primary header="Don't just send out spam emails" body="Get your business noticed... for the right reasons" href="/social-media-courses"][/cta_primary]

Emailing your list using bulk mail

Many people feel that the best way to communicate with their 'list' is to send out a bulk email using their email client like Outlook or Gmail.

There are four main problems with that strategy:

  1. there may be no proper branding - other than in the From section of the email or the signature at the bottom;
  2. it is harder to set up scheduling of emails and they could end up going out too frequently
  3. it is harder to track who opens your emails - even with Outlook users can refuse to let you receive such a notification
  4. there will be no reminder of how they signed up to your list in the first place; and
  5. most importantly, there is no way for people to opt out of receiving future emails.

The result of not offering an unsubscribe option

I receive several emails each month from scammers trying to flog me dodgy software and none of them has any way for me to remove myself. Whereas I might have entertained their messages initially, I will now never buy from these people because they have made it impossible for me to stop receiving their spam. They go straight into the bin accompanied by an irritable sigh!

I could, of course, look up the ISP who supplies their website hosting and report them and that is becoming an increasingly more attractive option. But there is also the chance to report this unsolicited spam to the ICO

The ICO advise people not to give away their email address to all and sundry - which makes life more difficult for honest businesses who are trying to market to people who might actually want their products or services.

As a business that does engage in email marketing, I want the people on my list to be happy to receive my emails.

If they don't want to, it is better for me to make it easy for them to opt out.

That way, they may still be returning customers through another means. Not irritated people who will tell others that my business spammed them. Do you see?

Other important elements of email marketing for beginners

The Title

Make sure that the title of your email is entertaining and eye catching - that's the best way to get people to open them. But the content must then fulfil the promise of the title - people won't be fooled again!

The Content

Run teasers which link back to your blog or website for more information about the product or service. You want to drive traffic with your emails. But don't try to cover too many topics. More than three things to look at can run the risk of giving people too much choice and overwhelming them. Be clear about the course of action that you want them to take.

The Calls To Action

Make sure the email includes calls to action that encourage the reader to take the action you want to achieve. Call us on ***, Email us on ***, Visit our site at *** for more information.

How to pay

If you are including information about a product, give people a way to buy it now without leaving the email. Strike whilst the iron is hot!

Here's a great infographic that will talk you through creating a successful email marketing campaign for your business.

Topics:EmailLocal Business Marketing

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