I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “But I’ve only built a form, what does it have to do with CAN-SPAM?” Not a lot on the surface, but your brand new form could impact the health of your email program.
I’ve been using Formstack for over a year now, and I love it. Ease of use is the reason; I’m a firm believer in “work smarter, not harder.” Building a form in Formstack takes minutes instead of building out a web-collect form in my ESP, and it’s integrated through an API, everything I need for building my subscription list for my newsletters.
But there are a lot of marketers out there who think that ease of use equates compliant programs. The truth is the ease makes it easier to think about the complicated things that dictate our marketing. Take, for instance, the following scenario.
In December of 2012 I signed up for a newsletter from a new local restaurant, which is part of a bigger restaurant empire. When I signed up, all I got was a confirmation page. Then, in July of 2013, I got an email from the group introducing a new business unit for catering. So, what’s wrong with that? We cross-promote services and units all the time! The email I got was SPAM.
The working definition of SPAM is sending messages that people don’t want. Yes, Virginia, SPAM can be pretty, it doesn’t have to offer me pills from Canada, or ways to improve my credit score. But I signed up for communications about the restaurant, not about catering.
Here are some tips on how to avoid being a spammer:
1. Be truthful with your form. If you have a contact form, tell your new subscriber in the confirmation page:
- How often they’ll hear from you
- What they’ll get
- Any other germane information about your offer
If you don’t have a confirmation page, include it in your email program with an opt-out link.
2. Remember, permission doesn’t equal inbox. Remind your new subscriber to check their SPAM folder or other tabs for Gmail users when they first sign up. The subscriber is expecting the information, not the ISP. Gmail doesn’t care that the person signed up, they’ve never seen your communication before, and if you use a from address like “email@example.com,” you’re going to end up in places other than the inbox.
3. Be transparent in your form. If you are a part of a bigger picture, include a statement that says, “Occasionally we may make your information available to other units within the organization. If you don’t want to be included in those types of messages, opt out here.”
4. Don’t ask for everything up front. Getting a whole picture of your customers is a natural desire for a marketer, but trust has to be built. Break up your form into sections; use the least amount of information you need to send a personalized email – first and last name, email address for the initial signup.
5. Follow up. Send a welcome email for your offer; if you want to mine more data on your subscriber, include a link to the next section of your form, pre-populated with what you know already. From there, ask more probing questions – address, date of birth, demographics.
6. Deliver on your promises. If you say they’ll hear from you, make sure they do.
Using good form practices and tactics like this will make your emails something that customers want to keep. They’ll let you in their inboxes because they want your communication. And you’ll ensure the health and compliance of your email lists.
Bonus Tip: Forms are susceptible to spamtraps and spambots. To help combat this, here’s a tip… Include a hidden short answer field on your form. Code crackers who build bots look at code. If you include a field that looks legit (something like, “how did you hear about us?”), cleanse your list on that field. If it is populated and hidden, you know that a bot filled out your form- this will improve your sender score and make the ISP’s see you in a better light.
About the Author
Kirk R. Gray (@kirkrgray) is a Formstack customer and has been doing email marketing for more than fifteen years. He works for a major online education provider, and operates his own blog –browserspencer – providing unique real world insight into email marketing best practices and offers solutions/consulting for the problems facing email marketers in a mobile-age. When not blogging, Kirk enjoys living in Washington, DC with his partner and their two dogs – Browser, a corgi and namesake of his blog, and Oly, a Jack Russell. He’s also a huge fan of Broadway theatre and theme parks (especially Disney World!) and an advocate of online education, holding multiple degrees from online universities.