I have no bones to pick with copywriter Andy Owen. On the contrary I think he is one to watch in the direct marketing space. One who can teach you valuable lessons. But don’t ask him for advice on permission marketing or you might “go to jail”.

(English is not my native language hence my written English is not perfect. If you are ok with that, read on)

Permission marketing is another term for email marketing. A term coined by Seth Godin in one of his books published more than 10 years ago.

Smart people whom study what email marketing is all about, quickly learn that getting permission to email is not only commonsense, but also required by law in many countries. Breaking the law might not involve jail time,but could set the perpetrator back a lot of money. Debitel, for example, was fined app. €300.000 for sending unsolicited messages to 48.000 people. (see case here). Jail sentences have been discussed, but so far authorities haven’t gone that far.

Opt-in or double-opt-in is the name of the permission marketing game
If you have been involved in publishing email marketing newsletters or promotional campaigns, you will know that opt-in is required in order to establish a good relationship with your recipients. And you know that many corporations prefer to use the so-called double-opt-in technique – just to be 110% sure that new subscribers actually without a doubt really do want to subscribe.

Respectable firms need to be in compliance too
I have spent countless hours discussing what’s right and wrong in email marketing. For years I have kept my mouth shot when respectable marketers chose to disrupt me with unwanted (mass) emails. Communication pieces that I never asked to receive. On January 2nd 2012 I decided to share some of the best examples of how not to conduct email marketing. Andy Owen is first, more to come

Go here to get more articles and tutorials on email marketing

Don’t do what Andy Owen just did or “go to jail”
Now, as I mentioned in the introduction, I have no bones to pick with Andy Owen. And I sort of think he is right when he recently wrote ..

“The lunatics are running the marketing asylum”

in his well written, entertaining and enlightening “Copycat letter”.

I don’t know if Andy Owen lives in a copywriter asylum, but Andy Owen may be aware of the laws and legislation governing email marketing. And he may not. But I do know that Andy Owen is a lot smarter than most marketers. And that is why I do not understand why he chose to send me and many others the following email.

Have a look at the email and then read my comments and suggestions below.

andy owen copycat permission marketing
I hope that you can learn a tiny bit from these comments – the first of which is that the email is well written and the layout is easy on the eye making it easy (and quick) to read the text. The numbers below refer to the number annotations in the email above.

  1. The email is sent from AndyOwen to andyowen. You don’t want to copy that. Andy likely used the highly popular bcc technique. That is for kids and spammers. Professional email marketers use an ESP (Email marketing service provider).
  2. Here Andy writes that he knows that I am not receiving his newsletters. That caught my attention. He has taken time out to learn something about the most important person in the world (me – the recipient). It is a very good technique to get people’s attention. Of course Andy knows this, since he is an expert copywriter.
  3. But this is where things go wrong. Andy Owen writes that he has added me to his list without my permission. That is simply not acceptable. And it is an illegal practice in many countries where the opt-in permission legislation is in place, but acceptable where ever the opt-out practice is in play.
  4. Here he tells me that if I don’t want to be on the list, I can simply let him know, and he will remove me. How nice of you, Andy. But let’s consider the what if’s. What if I never heard of you, would I trust you to remove me? What if I never read the message? What if I was a CMO in a large organization where we do things by the book – would I appreciate this sort of marketing technique?

Andy is not the only one
You probably receive a couple of emails every month that you never asked for. Emails that are written in a way that makes you believe that you have some sort of relationship with the sender.

I certainly receive many such emails. Many of them are from Linkedin contacts. Most of them are from senders in countries such as India and Egypt where there is no permission marketing legislation in place. I doesn’t make it ok, but understandable. Even more come from places such as United Arab Emirates, Romania and Russia.

But especially if you are marketing to people residing in North America or the EU, you have to do your homework.And that includes doing a bit of research on what the current rules and regulations are for sending email messages. And then make sure you are in compliance – even if it does require a bit of work.

What’s next?