Keep Your Marketing Leads Compliant
Gaining leads is thrilling. It means that something you’ve been doing has worked; and hey, that feels pretty good. But before you market to your leads, it’s best to step back and ensure you are compliant with all relevant regulations and guidelines.
What is a lead?
What exactly is a lead? Basically, a lead is any individual who may have an interest in your products or services. Leads can be broken down into subcategories:
- Hot leads – A hot lead has significant awareness of your company and is likely ready to make a purchase.
- Cold leads – A cold lead has shown little to no interest in your company.
- Qualified leads – A qualified lead has not only expressed interest in your company but has characteristics that align with your buyer personas.
Businesses collect leads through their various marketing channels, and once you gain them, it can be tempting to immediately launch into aggressive marketing campaigns. However, it’s important to consider the rules and best practices governing lead communication.
Tread carefully with email
Marketers must adhere to regulations prior to pushing out commercial messages in a digital context, the most pertinent being the CAN-SPAM Act.
Enacted in 2003 at the dawn of Web 2.0, CAN-SPAM is most associated with email communications and includes several provisions:
- Don’t harvest – It is never wise to buy bulk lists or collect email addresses from websites for the purpose of mass emailing. It is true that there is no real “opt-in” feature to CAN-SPAM. Unfortunately, when you mass email a list, you run the risk of mailing someone who has already opted out of your communications,[i] which could result in a violation of over $50,000 for every single email.[ii] Other potential consequences include getting banned from your lead’s email inbox or even from your email marketing software itself.
- Affirmative consent – Because of the problems inherent in sending out mass messages to large, unverified lists, many marketers pursue what is known as “affirmative consent.” Getting explicit consent from your contacts means they have articulated a desire to receive marketing messages from you.
- Clearly identify yourself – All email communications from a commercial party should be clearly labeled as such. Emails must list your company’s physical address and the headline should mesh with its body content. Lastly, fields like the “From” field need to be accurate and align with the sender’s identity.
- Allow them to opt out – You are required to give your email recipients a clear, digital-based way to stop receiving communications from you. Under the CAN-SPAM law, you need to also process opt-outs in 10 days or less.
- Compliance must be comprehensive – All of the requirements we’ve just discussed also extend to any vendors or third-party providers.
What about social?
For years now, marketers have also wondered whether the CAN-SPAM law also applies to social media communications. While mostly designed to govern email messages, some federal court cases have interpreted the scope of the law to also include social media platforms.[iii]
Even if direct solicitation on social media won’t necessarily result in CAN-SPAM trouble, it is wise to emulate the statute’s spirit:
- Be transparent – Do not try to hide who you are on social or attempt to obfuscate the reasons for contacting someone.
- Adhere to platform rules – Each social media network has its own community guidelines and site rules. Before engaging in any direct messaging, familiarize yourself with any relevant codes of conduct to avoid being banned.
- Respect consumer privacy – Many social media platforms allow users some control over how their data is used, who can contact them on the site, and which parts of their profiles are publicly available. Be on the lookout for any signs that your messages won’t be received well and act accordingly. For example, if you are thinking about contacting someone who has set their profile to private, think again.
A better approach
Gaining prospects and leads is exciting, but before you send additional electronic messages, ensure you are compliant with regulations and adhering to platform codes of conduct. Failing to do so can land you in a world of hurt, which is why taking things slow and steady is often a better approach.
Instead of utilizing mass emails and social media advertisements, prioritize creating a content marketing strategy that delivers value and nudges leads toward actively consenting to receive further messages and campaigns. That way, you can develop more organic, impactful relationships with leads, close more deals and keep your nose clean all at the same time.