If you are trying to market your business, chances are you are using some form of email marketing. Email marketing is an increasingly popular way for businesses to promote themselves, and it can yield excellent results if done properly. There are strict rules and regulations regarding email marketing, and there are also consequences for breaching them – as fast food chain McDonald’s recently found out when they were issued with a warning by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) over their email marketing activities.
McDonald’s was found to be in violation of the Spam Act with a ‘send to friends’ email function on its Happy Meal website. This feature allowed visitors to the site to forward information, including games and activities, to friends via email. The friends though, in some instances, did not have permission from their friends to pass on their details to McDonald’s as part of this campaign. McDonald’s also did not include unsubscribe option as part of the campaign, required under the spam regulations.
This incident raises many questions around what is and is not acceptable when it comes to friend-to-friend email marketing activities. Friend-to-friend marketing is an extremely powerful way to promote your business, and with the internet and social media in particular, it is an easy and often cost effective means of marketing. Although your marketing may not be on the grand scale of McDonald’s, it is still important to ensure that you are not leaving yourself legally vulnerable, or inadvertently spamming people.
Many businesses assume that asking customers to obtain permission before sending information on to their friends is enough to protect them from legal issues, however, this may not be the case. As the sender of information via email, your business is ultimately responsible for proving consent from the final recipient of marketing emails, not the customer who forwarded them. Having clear records is the only way to ensure your business is protected, but if you are using friend-to-friend marketing, this can be difficult.
As well as the possible legal implications, don’t forget that building trust with your potential customers is an essential part of marketing. Friends of friends may be irritated at receiving emails from your business, which they did not ask for, and this may even deter them from using you in the future.
Ultimately friend to friend marketing has got more complicated. My suggestion is that if you are thinking of launching a friend to friend marketing campaign, that the details of how the promotion works are checked over by a lawyer who has expertise in this area.
Jo Macdermott is the Chief Marketing Consultant at Next Marketing in Melbourne. She has 15 years of marketing experience, is a Certified Practising Marketer, and is a sought after marketing media commentator. Her team at marketing agency [http://www.nextmarketing.com.au/] Next Marketing can help you devise a marketing strategy, implement a social media plan, and her highly talented graphic designers work alongside her marketing pros to build a solid marketing plan that will help you attract more customers, expand your business, and build momentum for many months to come.