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I have noticed that there is an increase in unsolicited e-mail or SPAM – not the type of spam that is offering me pills, but unsolicited marketing messages from people I have met. There are also many discussions circulating at the moment about when it is appropriate or not appropriate to add someone to your mailing list, so it seemed appropriate for me to blog about this subject.

As a busy networker I meet people all the time, whether in person or virtually. It frustrates the hell out of me that just because I have connected to you on LinkedIn, or started to follow you on twitter, or given you my business card in good faith, you add me to your mailing list. (Have you noticed, I’m on a bit of a rant today) I publicly display my e-mail on my website and give you my business card to make it easy for you or potential clients to be able to contact me, not to give you my permission to send me unsolicited marketing e-mails. By the way, I class the unsolicited e-mails which look as if they are a friendly e-mail offering me a fantastic deal, still as Spam. In fact these are even worse than the standard newsletter, because it has tricked me into reading the message as I thought it may be important.

Think about it, your objective on ‘meeting me’ should be to first and foremost develop the relationship, not annoy me (and damage your credibility) at the start of our relationship…

When you add me to your mailing list without prior permission, not only are you breaking the law, (the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, if you are interested), but you are showing me and my inbox a lack of respect. My time is precious, and I could be doing far more interesting things than, deleting, unsubscribing and reporting unsolicited e-mails. Oh, just in case you were wondering I will report every unsolicited e-mail as it is SPAM in my opinion.

Let’s have a little look at what the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, actually says:

1st Rule
• when they send marketing emails to you, the sender must not conceal their identity; and
• they must give you a valid address for opt-out requests

This rule actually applies to all marketing messages sent by electronic mail (see ‘electronic mail’ below), regardless of who the recipient is.

2nd Rule
• Senders cannot send such messages unless they have your prior consent to do so.
This strict ‘opt-in’ rule is relaxed if three exemption criteria are satisfied.

These are:
1. your email address was collected ‘in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale’;
2. the sender only sends promotional messages relating to their ‘similar products and services’; and
3. when your address was collected, you were given the opportunity to opt out (free of charge except for the cost of transmission) which you didn’t take. The opportunity to opt-out must be given with every subsequent message.

This rule only applies to unsolicited marketing messages sent by electronic mail to individual subscribers.

This means you can only sign me up to your mailing list if I give you prior permission or if I buy from you AND you give me a chance to opt out, on every mailing.

The question is then how do you legally build up your mailing list?

  1. When meeting someone, ask for permission to sign them up to your mailing list – give them an incentive for doing so
  2. Add a squeeze page to your website which encourages people to sign up
  3. If you don’t get permission when you meet them, send them an e-mail asking for permission. (That’s before you start sending them marketing e-mails… you know the type of newsletter which starts… ‘You are receiving this e-mail because I’ve either met you recently in person….’
  4. Drive traffic to a sign-up page on your website, with a compelling incentive to sign up.

Who else feels as strongly as me about unsolicited marketing e-mails?