The announcement late last year from the EU Council of Ministers regarding consumers and technology regulations has created a good deal of discussion around what the new stricter controls to protect consumer rights means for marketers. There has even been dialogue in the email marketing space around what the new directive means for pre-checked opt-in boxes on web forms.

Regardless of how strict or lenient your interpretation of the new requirements, the introduction of tougher regulations will benefit not only consumers, but also savvy marketers. Read that last sentence again if you are a bit perplexed—savvy marketers will benefit from tighter regulations and stricter technology such as “intelligent inboxes” and improved spam filters.

In a world of overflowing inboxes, newsfeeds and mobiles, only the marketers that focus on meeting consumer demands and creating better engagement will succeed. Whether this is affected through new regulations, fines, penalties or technologies that make irrelevant email marketing less effective, the entire industry will benefit from these changes.

As you navigate through the myriad of new regulations coming to the United Kingdom and the broader EU countries, here are some quick thoughts on how you can “legislation-proof” your email marketing programme:

1) Understand that meeting legislative requirements is the bare minimum

Why do we have to create laws governing the use of cookies? And tickboxes? And unsolicited email? We create them because consumers are tired of irrelevance and abuse. We create them because some marketers focus more on volume and sloppy practices than they do on relevance and effectiveness.

In the end, legislative guidelines are the bare minimum requirements for marketers. If you want to succeed and excel in your career, you should focus far beyond the bare minimum. Doing so will ensure that your email marketing practices will rarely, if ever, be pared back by new regulations. Therefore all marketers should be creating best-in-class programmes to prevent jumping through hoops for years to come.

2) Whether the law says pre-checked opt-in boxes are legal or illegal, consider not using them.

It’s a contentious statement I know. But again I have to ask—why do email marketers want to use pre-checked opt-in boxes? Mainly because they are too focused on measuring their success by list growth, which is the wrong metric altogether.

I would gladly take one thousand opt-ins who knowingly requested messages than ten thousand who subscribed inadvertently and will ultimately either not respond, unsubscribe or report abuse. In fact, one of our clients, Intertops, did just that—it reduced the size of its email marketing database by 75 per cent, removing inactives collected from more than 10 years of growth.

Subsequently, they saw an increase of up to 30 per cent in opens and clicks and a 100 per cent improvement in deliverability. More subscribers is not the goal. More engagement and revenue is. Lose the pre-checked opt-in boxes whether the EU tells you to or not.

3) Truly believe that email marketing is not an acquisition channel.

Social media hasn’t killed email marketing. It hasn’t even harmed it. In fact, social media has done more for email marketing than any other development in past years. One of the key things social media has done is freed email from the grips of marketers who felt it should be an acquisition channel.

Email is, and always has been, one of the best marketing channels for building and deepening relationships through relevant, targeted and personalised communications. Social media is fantastic at creating buzz and extending the reach of your brand. Harness it and use it to drive interested consumers into your email marketing programme. And after doing so, focus on using email to drive ROI and create deeper engagement with those consumers who express interest.

4) Give more power and control to your subscribers.

If you truly want to legislation-proof your email marketing programme, you can do it with one simple ethos — create programmes and communications that are demanded by your customers. And, at each point, give them as much power and control of the relationship with your brand as you can. After all, each new piece of legislation that rolls out from any government is focused on forcing marketers into doing just this. So, do your brand some good and focus on your subscribers. If you do, you may never have to make another change to your email programme to become “legislatively compliant.”


Richard Evans

Richard Evans


Richard Evans is Director of Marketing, EMEA at Silverpop