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Can Email Marketing Regulations Boost Businesses' Online Marketing Efforts?
A business that sends mass emails would have to include in the text of emails its physical address, contact information, and a prominently displayed unsubscribe option.
Posted Jun 16, 2003
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Email marketing regulations recently proposed by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) could go a long way in supporting companies' legitimate online marketing efforts while making it more difficult for spammers to abuse the power of the Internet. Under the proposed federal regulations, a business that sends mass emails would have to include in the text of emails its physical address, contact information, and a prominently displayed unsubscribe option. Furthermore, the firm would have to target its emails to recipients with specified demographics or who are part of specified groups. A business could no longer simply hit the send button and blindly distribute marketing information via email to every address it finds. The DMA's goal is to reduce the million-message batches of spam, which today run the gamut from email advertisements for consumer products to pharmaceuticals. Spam is characterized by emails with misleading subject lines and phony return addresses. Surprisingly, many of these emails are from companies that offer legitimate products and services. With rising postage rates and consumers' continued adoption of email as the communications vehicle of choice, it's apparent that marketing in the wired world has taken on new meaning. In fact, statistics show that email marketing can generate up to 12 times higher response rates than traditional direct mail, because customers can quickly click from an email to a company's Web site to make purchases. Email marketing campaigns serve a vital function--especially in light of the expected postal rate hikes and the current economic slump, in which companies have fewer marketing dollars to spend. The DMA announced at its recent conference that two thirds of its member businesses reported that sales resulting from email campaigns have reached 15 percent of businesses' online sales, up from 3 percent in 2000. The DMA's proposal is generating some opposition from antispam groups, such as the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, which argues that the guidelines could actually increase unwanted email. John Mozena, the coalition's cofounder, was recently quoted in an Associated Press article as saying that the DMA's guidelines "might clear out some of the scam artists, but would probably increase the amount of unsolicited emails sent by 'legitimate' companies."
However, the proposed regulations would be a win-win for consumers and businesses. Consumers would be able to better distinguish legitimate commercial email from spam. At the same time, emails from respected businesses would have more legitimacy. With the growth in the number of commercial emails there's no question that guidelines should be implemented. Still, Internet users should do their part. In addition to supporting the stricter regulations proposed by the DMA, users should work to monitor the medium. Stricter email marketing regulations are critical at this time. Businesses and consumers should support the new regulations proposed by the DMA and also do their part in monitoring and policing the Internet.
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