Internet Marketers and blog/forum/website owner alike will tell you the importance of an email list in not only promoting your new ideas/services, but also in helping maintain a steady stream of return traffic.
Little surprise then that the Internet is filled with blog posts detailing how to effectively utilize them, yet very few actually deal with the idea of ethically maintaining and utilizing this precious resource, people have entrusted in you!
Because lets face it, unless you are a spammer or a marketeer (usually there is little difference between the two), last thing you want to do is annoy those people, who not only willingly gave you their contact details and permission to contact them, but also in a way, trust and value your brand.
So here are a few guidelines/rules for ethically dealing with email lists:
Respect people’s choice to unsubscribe: I can not help but stress enough on the need to respect the choice of individuals to no longer receive email updates/newsletters and such requests not only need to be processed at the earliest, but the details of unsubscription process should be given at the end of each email update/newsletter to ensure people know they have this option. Failing which, you not only risk irritating those no longer interested in your services/brand, but also being labelled as a spammer!
Never share/sell email lists: While you might have a Terms of Service drafted, which permits you to sell/share personal information of all those who have willingly shared them with you, it is best to respect their privacy and not indulge in such practices, because lets face it, people gave you permission to talk to them, not some random company with enough money to lure you into selling their details!
Never buy email lists: Unless you are planning your future as a spammer and would love to see your brand being termed as one, stay away from such lists, even if they are double opt-in confirmed and are coming from a trusted source!
Maintain the security of your email lists: Email lists are nearly as important as credit card info, because lets face it, they help you and your brand, make money. So it is only imperative that you not only try and protect them as much as you can, but also entrust access to them to a limited number of people within your organization. Of course it goes without saying, that using strong password and encryption where possible, is strongly recommended!
Only send limited number of emails: While it is good to have a large fan following and being able to keep in touch with them on a regular basis, it is important to not get carried away and send one too many emails! So while in case of a blog post subscription, it is naturally expected by a subscriber that he/she will receive emails almost every day and they wouldn’t be annoyed by it, it is best to limit website/forum update emails to one every fortnight or maybe once every week.
Always keep in mind that email addresses aren’t just data, they are signs of trust from your customers and hence need to be treated with care and respect.