Email and the Law

The mathematics of email marketing

It is a basic of email marketing that your email list is the most valuable asset you have. Everything you do should go some way to cementing the relationship between you and your subscribers. Upset them and they will go.

Trust is an essential. One way of ensuring that customers will click the unsubscribe button is to lie to them. Not only that, there is always the possibility, one becoming more and more likely, of having your deviousness exposed by way of a successful complaint.

In July the ASA ruled on an email campaign promoted by Groupon. Its offer was variously described as a 94% and 97% discount, specifically £98 for £3,500 of treatment. Many might have felt this was too good to be true. And many would have been right.

This was a simple enough case of ‘read the small print’. Those who did not would have been surprised to find that the total cost to them for the treatment would have been £1,948. The tortuous route to the headline discount was £98 for a £1,650 discount (hence the reported 94%) on £3,500 worth of treatment. Did you follow the math? The logic is less clear.

The same company also promoted a heavy discount on the iPhone 4 which attracted a very attractive figure of 15,000 customers. They had just four phones. The OFT was also somewhat critical of the use of an employee of the company posing as a customer on its Facebook page.

Coupons have suddenly shed their image of kitchen table exercises with poorly dressed children, scissors in hand, searching through the tabloids. Some say it is the recession that has generated both the rise in popularity and the loss of stigma. Groupon, which has more than six million British customers, recently rejected a bid of some $6 billion.

You will no doubt believe that something this big has got to have something in it that can be exploited. If it runs through all strata of society with daytime television programs dedicated to it then your belief is probably spot on.

For those offering coupons in email marketing campaigns it would appear that the honeymoon period is over. One bit of good news is that those in email marketing would already follow the best policy.

Despite what the take-up of the 97% off offer suggests, the public is getting more sceptical, not to mention more willing to complain. The rebirth of coupons has generated a new verb, couponing, which can only enhance its respectability. They look good and, in most cases are good. If your business is open to couponing then it should be a consideration.

But take care. It would seem that poor practice has been highlighted and this might well start to put customers on the defensive. Whilst you may, indeed must, play fair, if others in the field generate an air of deceit then you could well end up tarred with the same brush. The word ‘con’ has been used in a daily paper. Permission-based email marketing is all about trust. If you lose that then you lose your subscribers. 



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