Unsolicited emails, they are so annoying. I don’t know about you, but approximately 80% of all new emails I receive come from someone I don’t know, never heard of before trying to sell me stuff. They bug me to no end. Most people would identify these types of emails as spam. Mostly you’d be right. However not all are.
It’s all matter of perception. I’ve chatted with many people in forums and Facebook groups about this. Mostly their definitions of what spam is, ranges from the formal definitions such as what is in the Spam Act 2003 to “anything I don’t want to see“. Most people’s definitions are closer to the “anything I don’t want to see” side of the spectrum.
I personally believe, it is these differences in perceptions which gives people grief when dealing with the spam/email marketing issue. I also believe that some businesses are missing opportunities because of their personal perceptions about what is or isn’t spam.
Unsolicited emails – I think I’ve been spammed?
Recently I was asked the following question in an online forum:
question for you…. someone has added me to a mail chimp mailing list saying they found my details online and therefore they are allowed to legally add me to their database. Is this true? I thought you couldn’t add anyone to a database unless they opted in.
My reply was
Yes, kind of sort of… It’s a grey area, but they can if permission is inferred. There has to be a reasonable assumption that your business may use their services.
I should expand on that. But before I do I will discuss Mail Chimp.
* Mail Chimp’s acceptable use policy is quite comprehensive however it does tend to miss some of the finer nuances of the Australian Spam Act. This can lead to some confusion in regards to the question of “did the email respondent give me consent or not” Mail Chimp’s double opt in approach does make it fairly simple in determining expressed permission.
However when it comes to “inferred permission” (I’ll talk touch on this a bit later) it is a bit messy. In Mail Chimp you have the facility to add in “new subscribers” to your list manually. All you need to do is once you have added a subscriber is to tick a check box which asked do you have permission to add this email address?
Sounds pretty good, hey. But beware. If someone makes a compliant about a email you sent them, then Mail Chimp won’t take it to kindly if you can’t explain yourself (as they should).
So my advice here would be unless you are 100% certain you have their permission then don’t add anyone to you list. If your defence is “inferred permission”, you better know your Spam Act 2003 like the back of your hand.
Now this leads me to inferred permission. I have discussed this in a prior post.
Determining inferred permission can be tricky, really tricky. It is not as simple as, “there is an email address therefore I can email them“. You need to be 100% certain that you have a potential business relationship with the recipient. Now you can’t assume that just because you offer a service and/or a product that everyone wants it. You have to establish that there is a reasonable assumption your product/service is a fit with their business.
For example, you may make shoes. Even though most people in business wear shoes, you can’t email every business in the yellow pages trying to sell your shoes. It’s just not reasonable to assume that the business owner wants or need shoes because they have feet. However you could email footwear and/or fashion retail outlets because you can assume that your product may fit their business needs. In other words, you need to be able to infer a direct business relationship which is also wanted (even though they may not know about you, yet).
Another way to look at might be like this. I am an online researcher who who specialises in finding things online for his customers**. I have a website and I advertise my service on this website. As I mentioned above I get quite a lot of unsolicited emails. Most are from SEO companies. It is reasonable to assume that I may be in need of their services***. The same goes with companies who provide web design services.
However on occasion, I receive emails from companies trying to sell me construction products. Today I received and email from a business who sell bathroom products. I work behind a computer under my house which I rent. I do not need or require bathroom products. This is an unsolicited email and is SPAM.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is you may receive emails from businesses you don’t know about. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are spamming you. Therefore, it is quite reasonable that someone can add you to their database because they found your email address on the internet. Within reason.
Please note it is up to the sender to provide proof of consent.
Next week – I will talk about how you can determine if a website gives you inferred consent or not.
*I can only talk about mail chimp because I use it and therefore very familiar with it. I cannot talk about other email marketing service providers at this moment as I haven’t looked at their policies. For those of you who use other services, please have a look at their policies to determine what you can or cannot send. Having said this, I suspect they would have very similar policies. *
** Yes, I find email address for other companies. One of the things I look at before I give someone an email contact to chase up is the question of consent. Part of my services is to ensure a list I provide is Spam Act compliant. ** Want to know more? Please email me.
***There are some SEO companies which are spammers, but not for the reason of lack of consent. I won’t talk about those other reasons in this blog because it will only confuse the issue. ***