Tom Wozniak heads up Marketing and Communications for OPTIZMO Technologies.

With the emergence of the internet, marketing truly went global. Suddenly, it was feasible and even easy for advertisers to reach people around the world as easily as in their own backyard. This is certainly true when it comes to email marketing. 

While this easy global reach brings huge opportunities for email marketers, it also creates challenges. These challenges include adapting to audiences that communicate in various languages, accomodating cultural differences across countries and regions, identifying varied product and service needs, and numerous others. However, one important challenge that doesn’t always get a lot of attention is understanding and complying with varied regulations and laws that provide guidelines for marketing to recipients in different countries. In the United States, the rules for email marketers are explained in The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which has been providing clear guidance for sending commercial emails for nearly two decades. 

This topic has gained even more attention in recent years with the advent of data privacy laws around the world that impact the ways in which companies can market to consumers, how they can target those consumers and their responsibilities around handling the data they collect. One example of this was the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union in 2018. However, GDPR is far from the only data privacy legislation that has come into existence in various countries around the world in recent years. 

Because it’s possible for email campaign recipients to reside in various parts of the world — which means marketers communicating with them are subject to different rules and regulations — it’s important for email marketers to consider laws and regulations beyond just those in their home country. Note that I am not a lawyer or legal professional, and no information in this article should be taken as actual legal advice. I always recommend that companies obtain professional legal guidance on matters pertaining to industry regulations or legislation, such as CAN-SPAM or GDPR. However, I do have a few tips to offer from a marketing perspective.

1. Understand Your Audience

The first step any marketer should take is to look at the makeup of their audience. In the case of email marketing, this means you should evaluate your email recipient lists. It may be that you already have data about the geographic location of each recipient on your lists, in which case it may make sense to consider segmenting your lists by a variety of geographic factors (if you don’t already). If you don’t store geographic data on your email recipients, you may look at the information provided by your email service provider to determine if they provide any geographic reports on email respondents (for opens, clicks, etc.). This can at least provide a broad view of the geographic makeup of the active portion of your email lists.

Knowing the geographic makeup of your email lists is valuable for numerous reasons from a targeting perspective, but in this instance, it can provide insights into which countries you may want to focus your attention on when it comes to understanding compliance with regional guidelines. 

2. Get A View Of The Global Compliance Landscape

Once you have an idea of where your email recipients reside, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road in those regions. If the vast majority of your recipients are in the United States (which certainly may be the case), then your focus should be on maintaining compliance with The CAN-SPAM Act. But if you have recipients in the EU or other regions, then it may be time to educate yourself on laws like GDPR, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) of 2014 or numerous other regional and country-specific regulations.

When it comes to understanding the rules and regulations regarding email marketing in any country, I recommend that you take advantage of professional legal advice to ensure that your practices meet the requirements. Several countries do provide fairly understandable sets of guidelines that summarize the key points of the various laws, which can make it easier for marketers to understand and comply with the rules. 

3. Identify The Common Themes

By reviewing both email-marketing-specific and more general data privacy laws, you’ll identify a number of common themes and requirements around a few key practices:

• Opt-in requirements: Various regulations will stipulate whether you need a pre-existing opt-in to send marketing emails to a recipient or if unsolicited emails are allowed.

• Opt-out methods: Regulations will also list any requirements around providing a method for recipients to opt-out or unsubscribe from future mailings.

• Opt-out request processing: Different regulations require various timeframes within which opt-out requests must be processed and honored.

• Sender identification: Multiple regulations require that marketing emails must accurately identify the sender. 

There are numerous other aspects of every regulation that you should familiarize yourself with, but many of them include most or all of these four elements. This can help marketers develop compliance programs that meet the requirements of multiple regulations.

4. Adopt A Set Of Best Practices

One of the most effective initiatives email marketers can undertake is to adopt a set of overall email best practices. These certainly include compliance with relevant regulations, but you should also focus on practices such as:

• List hygiene and cleansing.

• Targeting audiences with relevant messaging (the right language, etc.).

• Creating clear and transparent subject lines and email content.

• Identifying the most effective email timing and frequency for your audience.

Compliance and best practices may focus on following all relevant guidelines, but I’ve found that practices like these can also lead to improved email campaign performance, better long-term value from your email database and even reduced costs from removing non-responsive email recipients. 


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