Stop! Before you declare your email campaign ready to go, check that you’ve included these 3 ‘must-have’ items.
1. Reply to address
One of the key principles of email marketing legislation is the need for senders of email (and other forms of direct marketing) to be identifiable, that is their identity must not only not be actively concealed but must be actively revealed. Including company details is one way of ensuring this. The other is to have a valid reply to address.
Unfortunately it’s common to see email campaigns with a ‘no-reply’ address. This is generally an email address which is blocked against incoming mail or at best is not actively monitored.
One of the key reasons for doing this is to be able to deal with a large number of automated ‘out of office’ replies, or to force people to unsubscribe using the unsubscribe link. However sending email campaigns from a no-reply address is a bad idea for several reasons. Those who see that you are not providing a real option to reply are far more likely to unsubscribe, or worse, report your email as spam. Filters may also be set up to automatically junk incoming emails with a no-reply address. This will negatively impact the deliverability of this and potentially future email campaigns.
It also doesn’t provide a means of allowing your subscribers to white-list you as a sender – an action which can significantly improve future delivery success. Perhaps the best reason is that no-reply is a customer service failure – a fairly obvious statement to your audience that you are not interested in their interaction. Permission marketing is about building trust and engagement, so ‘don’t reply’ (even if it’s a positive response) is probably not the impression that you want to send to your subscribers.
Your reply-to doesn’t have to be a personal email address i.e. ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, although including a generic ‘email@example.com’ can also give the impression that a reply to this address is not likely to receive any attention.
2. Company registration details
A marketing email is considered as a business letter, so it is subject to the same regulatory requirements. According to the 2007 EU clarification of the 1985 UK Companies Act the minimum requirement is the inclusion of your company name (the name of the organisation with which the subscriber is contracting – this may be different from the company trading name), registration number, country of registration, and registered address.
It’s not mandatory but you may also consider adding other details such as the location of your physical headquarters and other offices and contact details. Larger organisations sometimes also include details of company directors, memberships of professional associations, VAT registration and other establishment information. Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) also have the need to make their status clear.
Company information must be included in the email itself, not in a link though to additional content or via a ‘contact-us’ form. Again the email footer is an ideal place for this. Here it won’t be a distraction from the main purpose of your message but it will be in a logical, easy to find location just in case it’s needed.
Offering a clear and functional opt-out both at the point of collection and on each email is your final ‘must-have’. It doesn’t matter how you do it – although including this as a link in the email footer is a common solution. That way is doesn’t draw unwanted attention to opting out but it’s still easy to find if people are looking for it.
It’s good practice to include the opt-out as a simple ‘Unsubscribe’ text link. As well as being a short and clear instruction, using a text link will ensure that the unsubscribe option is always visible even if images are not displayed in a campaign.
If you are using an email marketing platform (or via an ESP) processing of opt out requests should be automatic – in Sign-Up.to any opt out requests will automatically be added to your DNC (Do Not Contact) list. These subscribers will automatically be excluded at the point of delivery from any future mailings.
It’s worth bearing in mind that not all unsubscribers will use the dedicated unsubscribe link. Some will reply directly (hence the need for a valid and actively monitored reply-to address). Others will look to contact you directly by other visible email addresses, web forms or by telephone. The effort taken to contact you is proportional to the level of frustration, so it’s especially important to have a process in place to manually deal with those who choose to unsubscribe by means other than using a straightforward unsubscribe link.
That’s the legal stuff taken care of. There are many more ‘should-have’ items to include. They’re not mandatory but here are 3 other best practice items which are easy to include.
1. Alt-text for images
It’s important to recognise that although images are widely used, and widely supported, they will not always be displayed. Image blocking may be in place either by the email client or via a subscriber’s personal preferences. Gmail now loads images by default but Google still estimates that around 40% of users do not have images enabled.
Alt-text is the text attribute that can be included to tell subscribers the nature or contents of an image should that image not be displayed. Failure to display an image could be because of image blocking being applied by the subscriber or because of a broken image link. The alt-text appears in the blank box where the image would otherwise normally appear. Although it’s not recommended to put key messages or actions exclusively into an image, meaningful alt-text can ensure that if an image is not displayed the key meaning of your content can still be at least partially accessible.
The inclusion of alt-text is also good practice to help avoid spam filtering. Those dealing in spam emails generally don’t take the time to add subscriber friendly details like alt-text into their campaigns, so it’s one of the things that spam filters look for in deciding whether or not an email is genuine.
As with your other reference content the footer of your email is an ideal place to include this – visible if needed but otherwise not distracting from your core message. In practice it’s highly unlikely that the link will actually be clicked, but just including it in your footer adds reassurance that you take privacy seriously. It’s an important aspect of the trust relationship that you are developing with your subscribers.
You can also use this link to include any other terms and conditions type of information that may be relevant.
3. Plain text version
Inclusion of a plain text alternative as part of your HTML email delivery (often referred to as MIME, Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions) is a recommended best practice. The plain text version is exactly that – just unformatted text with no images or clickable links. It has a dual purpose.
Firstly some of your subscribers may prefer and actively chose plain text over HTML and many email clients give them the option to receive plain text only. Plain text is also more compatible with some brands of mobile device and wearable smart technology. Including a plain text version therefore addresses the needs of those who can’t or don’t want to receive HTML messages.
Secondly, including a plain text version can help you with campaign delivery. HTML is one of the indicators used by spam filters to determine whether or not an email is genuine. Spam generally has poor quality HTML coding (see alt-text above) and typically has either a missing or incomplete plain text alternative. Correctly formatted HTML with a matching plain text alternative will generally not have delivery issues, but failure to address either is likely to negatively impact delivery.
The good news is that most interactive email systems (including Sign-Up.to) will automatically generate a plain text version for you, either at the point of saving your campaign or manually as directed.