Get ready for Canada’s new anti-spam laws: what marketers need to know and do

Posted on Oct. 28, 2013 by @direct_cpc in Marketing solutions

Will your favourite e-marketing channels become illegal in 2014 because of your data lists? That scenario could become reality once Canada’s new anti-spam law, known as CASL, comes into effect in the next few months.

Under the new law, businesses can only send commercial electronic messages (CEM) if they have the express or implied consent from the recipient. Failure to get consent can result in a $10 million fine – with the burden of proof on the business.

Here’s how to ensure that you – and your data lists – will be ready to meet the new standards and avoid costly mistakes.

How CASL defines a commercial electronic message (CEM)
“Commercial” means any form of marketing within the electronic message. The Government of Canada web site defines it as “any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit.” Currently, those electronic channels include email, social media, and texting.

“It’s worth investing the time to acquire express consent from your customers”
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Understand why express consent is the new gold standard – and worth the investment
Under express consent, the intended recipient gives explicit permission (electronically, in writing, or orally with documentation) to a business or charity to send CEMs. Unlike implied consent, which has a time limit of two years and applies mainly to certain B2B and B2C relationships, express consent has no time limit. That’s why it’s worth investing the time to acquire express consent from your customers. Once you have it, you can keep reaching out to your lists through email, texting, and social media messaging. Without it, you either lose access to these channels or face a huge fine for using them illegally.

Create a plan and give your audiences a reason to give you their consent
Going full speed ahead with a poorly planned blast to acquire consent may cripple future marketing capacity. If you fail to get consent during the remaining time to reach out, then it could become very expensive to reacquire the right to send CEMs to your contact lists.

You need a solid marketing plan, not a “spray and pray” campaign that tells target audiences what you need – express consent – but doesn’t offer them a clear reason to actively agree to receive your CEMs. Use integrated and relationship marketing analytics and techniques when you reach out for express consent – show your targeted audiences that you understand them and can deliver value to them.

Be clear about what types of messages audiences will receive once they give consent
Plainly describe what will happen when someone gives consent. Have separate consent boxes for emails, social media and texts and even consider differentiating by product or service types. This way you don’t lose total access to recipients who don’t mind getting emails but hate getting commercial messages through social media or texting. Once you have express consent, don’t lose it through too many messages that fail to engage your target audiences. Remember once they unsubscribe, you can’t even send CEMs that ask if recipients really meant to unsubscribe.

Use direct mail to ask customers for their consent
Channels you can use to ask for express consent once CASL takes effect include traditional media and web ads. One of the most effective channels, direct mail has no sending restrictions and reaches every business and home address in Canada.

Done right, direct mail is highly effective at driving people to web and mobile platforms. Zelen Shoes’ campaign, for example, used geographic targeting and an inexpensive postcard with a QR code and website address to up online response by 22% (and lift mobile traffic to their e-commerce site by 412%). It will be relatively simple for Zelen’s to adapt this approach to ask potential and existing customer for express consent to future commercial electronic messages.

Marketers will face some real challenges under CASL, starting with auditing clients’ data lists and current CEMs. You’ll need to ensure that every CEM sent meets CASL consent and content standards. External data lists will need to be vetted for CASL compliancy, as your client will still be held accountable for any illegal CEMs. On the bright side, the legislation provides new incentives for clients who have who have been reluctant or unable to clean up their data lists, invest in analytics, and target different messages to different market segments.

What are you or your clients doing to prepare for Canada’s new anti-spam law?  What challenges will you face?

READ MORE: Tips to prevent a $10 million fine – what email marketers need to know about Canada’s new anti-spam law.


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