How can marketers avoid being labeled as "spam" and a "promotion?"

Spam vs. promotions: Can both labels be avoided?

While laws such as the 2003 CAN SPAM Act define what spam is as well as the rules and regulations businesses must follow when sending messages to their email distribution lists, consumers have an even less forgiving idea of what constitutes such communication. This requires companies to use a highly critical eye when determining which business emails make the cut and get sent out.

What do consumers not want to see?              
Sometimes understanding what irritates recipients, causes them to consider a communication spam or turns them off from reading a message can be more helpful than looking at the best example of what they do like. In a recent article on ClickZ, the source cites two of the worst content tactics, "batch-and-blast" and "spray-and-pray." While the terms are different, the underlying problem is the same: The email is not personalized; it doesn't engage with recipients and it certainly doesn't seem to understand anything about the audience.

This is an especially large problem in a society where personalization is becoming the norm. Analytics are enabling companies to track consumers shopping preferences and target ads to them directly. However, by choosing to mass-email potential shoppers, businesses not only risk damaging their reputations, but also hurting their bottom lines and having their attempts at communication marked as spam.

Avoiding the "spam" label is complex       
If it weren't complicated enough for marketers and organizations to avoid violating regulations or being tossed out by recipients, Google's recent changes to its messaging provider Gmail have thrown an even bigger wrench into the process. While Gmail is only one email provider, a report from AYTM Market Research revealed that 60 percent of individuals use the host as their primary email account.

Google's three tabs – Primary, Social and Promotions – seek to make it easier for account holders to access those emails they most want to see. But where is the line between "promotions" and "spam?" And how can businesses return to the "primary" folder?

Legally, any email message that is properly formatted and offers recipients the ability to unsubscribe is not in violation of the CAN SPAM Act. Under the new Gmail system, any communication that offers an unsubscribe button will go to the Promotions folder, creating another problem.

Will anyone see marketing emails?
One of the worries marketers have espoused following the changes is whether people will even bother to look under the promotions tab.

"The short answer is 'who knows,'" The Business Journals wrote. "The changes are so new that studies have not yet been conducted; however, it will be surprising if this new layout does not decrease the number of people who see and therefore open marketing emails. One thing is certain: it looks like there is no getting away from the promotions tab."

Companies such as Groupon and Gilt Groupe offer one unique example of how marketers can avoid the "black hole" of the promotions tab, Businessweek wrote. The two businesses are simply asking their email marketing lists to prevent them from being lumped in with other ads by dragging their communications from the promotions tab to the primary tab, ensuring this is where their messages go from thenceforward.

Regardless of the manner in which marketers and organizations decide to best appeal to consumers in light of these new changes, they should always prioritize the "opt-out" feature. The last thing businesses want to do is build ill-will among recipients by continuing to send them unwanted messages. This is a sure way to be sent straight to the spam folder in people's inboxes.

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