It's likely that you've received one, if not several, of those 'opt in to keep receiving e-mails from us' notifications this week. These e-mail signal the July 1 start date of the CRTC's anti-spam law (CASL).
The law changes the way businesses can communicate with their customers, making it necessary to get express consent to send e-mails and other marketing messages. For more on implied versus express consent, read this.
So what does the new express consent requirement mean for small businesses who have cultivated e-mail marketing lists over the years and are now worried about losing those contacts? The good news is there's a grace period for getting consent – as long as you've communicated with the customer prior to July 1st, 2014, you have three years to convert them to express consent. If you get implied consent after July 1, 2014, you have two years to convert to express consent, but that's still a good chunk of time to get your lists on board.
So while there is an initial rush to be up to code by July 1, the truth is that if you've been playing by the rules all along, there is not much that needs to change.
Often the most expensive part of tracking e-mail marketing consent is managing the database, since with express consent you need to keep a record as to who said you can send them e-mail updates. If you have a small number of e-mail subscribers (fewer than 2,000) you can use software to manage your lists for free, but once you grow beyond that threshold the monthly fees can add up.
Here are four cost-effective ways of managing your customer's data that keeps you compliant with CASL.
1. Mailchimp. This is one of the most popular e-mail marketing platforms on the market, and it's a good option because it offers a free basic account to anyone with under 2,000 subscribers on their e-mail list. Once you start creating a list you can send a link to get people to sign up directly (again, direct consent!) and you can manage that list and send out up to 12,000 e-mails per month for free. After you grow beyond the 2,000 subscriber mark, you can upgrade to a paid plan starting at $20/month with unlimited e-mails.
2. Twitter cards. These were launched in Canada alongside the social network's self-serve ad platform and are a criminally underused offering. Twitter cards provide businesses with the ability to capture an e-mail address associated with a person's Twitter account, so it can be used to get opt-ins for an e-mail list. This is a flexible tool and combined with a paid ad campaign can be effective in growing your database. Information captured can be downloaded and stored with the click of a button, and then uploaded to your e-mail marketing platform.
3. Google forms. Google has some great products for small businesses – using its Drive cloud storage offering combined with free alternatives to Microsoft Office like Google Docs means teams can create and collaborate documents for free. Part of the Drive platform is Google Forms, which are powered by Google Spreadsheets (their version of Microsoft Excel). Anyone can create a form for free and send it out to existing and potential customers by both social channels and by using your implied consent database.
4. Wufoo. Wufoo is a service that provides quick and easy access to fully customizable forms, and you can use it to create an e-mail newsletter signup form. Data entered into those forms is accessible via Wufoo's dashboard and can be exported into a .CSV file to upload for your own records. You can use social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to get the link out to existing and potential customers through their targeted ad platforms, and if you decide to use an e-mail marketing platform you can upload the list.
Here are some other tips for small businesses before CASL:
1. If you are a brick and mortar business, make asking your customers for their e-mail address a core part of your selling script. Include an iPad at the point of sale with the form open so that people can opt in right at the cash.
2. Checkboxes cannot be automatically clicked. The user needs to click to give consent. There is no such thing as implied consent through non-action.
3. As much as you want them to stay subscribed, the Unsubscribe needs to be on every single piece of communication and must be complied with within 10 days. If you're using a service like Mailchimp, this process can be done automatically.
5. Always include the address of your building or office in any communication. This lets people know you are an actual business and not just a spammer.
Jason is a digital strategist at 88 Creative. He has worked with clients including Budweiser, Coca-Cola, General Motors, and Intel to grow their online presence. He spends his free time at the rink or in the gym and, according to himself, was voted the handsomest employee at 88 Creative two years running. Follow him on Twitter @Jasegiles