ask the expert | am i allowed to email my customer list?

email customers.jpg

i have had a similar version of this question a number of times in the last couple of weeks, so i thought it was worth addressing…

"i have collected the email addresses of every customer that has inquired about my product or purchased a product. i want to send an email out to everyone telling people about my new ‘xxxxx’ but i am wondering if there are certain rules for businesses about emailing customers or if i need their permission first before sending an email."

email marketing

firstly there are indeed rules about privacy with regard to marketing and email. i have included here a few links to specific posts from different countries, it is worth checking into the specifics for your own country.

across the board, your email marketing campaign must be opt-in, there must be a way to opt out and you need to be really clear in your subject line about the purpose of your email.


there are also some general rules about what constitutes SPAM. basically if your marketing is:

  • unsolicited
  • indiscriminate
  • repetitive
  • impersonal

it will be seen as spam by the recipient.

the bottom line is that that if you send out a mass email to your entire biz contact list it will probably be construed as spam by your customers. most folks tend to not appreciate being added to a businesses newsletter just because you have their email address, in fact i see a lot of complaints about this. so don’t be one of those yucky spammy marketers. it’s not worth it!

opt-in newsletter

the solution is to set up a proper newsletter so that your customers/fans can choose to sign up and be on your list and can unsubscribe with the click of a button. my recommendation is mailchimp - it is the one i use and i absolutely love it - depending on your numbers it is free for a long time, it is super easy to set up and brand to match your biz, and super easy to add a newsletter subscription tab to your facebook page, website etc. (and just so you know, i am NOT technologically inclined, and i still found it easy to use.)

do not just use your own email program to set up your email marketing campaign. once you get higher numbers (which is your ultimate goal after all) it becomes increasingly hard to keep track of opt-ins and unsubscribes. a newsletter service will make this very easy – you will be amazed at how little time your email marketing takes, and you can even create subsets for your list. in addition, newsletter providers like mailchimp will allow you to track click opens so that you can see what works and what doesn’t; improving your marketing plan as you go.

once you have a proper newsletter set up, what i would recommend is sending out ONE friendly email to let your customers know about about your new site/brand/products/market stall or whatever (be sure all recipients are blind cc's, meaning no other recipient can see their email address, people really don't take kindly to that!) don't be spammy in that email (don't try to sell anything or include ads etc.), just make it a friendly reminder to stay on customers radar.  then in your friendly 'just to let you know..." email you can ask people to sign up for your newsletter.

in the future, add an opt-in box to your order form or contact form when you are collecting information from customers and fans: something as simple as ‘would you like to receive more information from us? tick here. never send unsolicited emails to your clients just because you can.

permission marketing

the incomparable seth godin popularized the concept of permission marketing, with his book by that name. if you have never read any of godin’s work, go do it right now. this post about permission marketing explains why it matters way better than i ever can. it will make you think twice about sending that blanket email to your entire contact list, i promise.

a newsletter, or a ‘list’ as it is called in the world of online marketing, can be a huge asset to your biz. but it is most valuable when people opt in to it and do not perceive it as spam. when you have a list of people who love your stuff and are asking to hear from you again, that is valuable. treat that list well!

do you want some step-by-step instructions for creating your own awesome newsletter? click here to have a look at the blueprints to builld a newsletter.

further reading: