It’s so innocent, but it’s verging on illegal!

Slowly but surely, people are figuring it out. Email marketing works. And the best way for it to work really well is when you are actively sending out emails. And then comes the next “aha” moment: You need to grow your list.

One place that people are increasingly turning to is their websites. This trend is on the rise and it warms me to the core when I see a sign-up box on a website. However, I am seeing an alarming amount of people who are missing an essential bit of etiquette and basic rules of engagement. In some cases, it could result in some legal problems.

The less-than-perfect-approach is very likely just an over-site, but you still need to fix it. You can’t hide why you are asking for an email address.

When you entice someone to give up an email address in exchange for something of value, it needs to be crystal clear that they will be added to your subscriber list. This is very important: you must be asking them to join or subscribe or sign-up for your list specifically. Then, when they get the free download of “how to build a widget”, they won’t be totally shocked when they start getting emails from you in the future.

Make your intentions clear

Recently, I have been signing up on lots of sites to see where it leads. Sure enough, I end up on an email list. But no where along the way did I discover this until the email shows up in my inbox that says something like, “Welcome to our list”.

What I see more and more is a call to action which forgets or avoids the Join/Subscribe detail. It looks something like:

a call to action needs to be clear in intentions

Something important is missing from this CTA!

In the example I created above, there is no clear statement about how this email address is being used other than when someone puts in their email address they assume they will get the free tips in their inbox.

Or worse, they get a plain wrapper email with the pdf of the free tips and a few days later comes the hard hitting marketing email to buy something. At that point, they can legitimately consider this email as unsolicited and therefore report it as spam. You don’t want that to happen.

Don’t risk getting fines or other punishments

Let me be really clear, because big fines can happen: If you get me to sign up to get a free download and I am never made aware that I have now been put on a mailing list, you are committing a crime. And if the person who randomly signs up is from Canada and they have not given you “explicit permission” (as opposed to implied) to receive emails for the purpose of soliciting a business relationship, you can face fines up to $10,000 under the terms of CASL – the Canadian Anti-Spam Laws.

Think hard: is it possible that you are guilty of this? If it’s not clear to someone visiting your site that you are (fair and square) exchanging something of value for access to their inboxes going forward, you are essentially “tricking” people into giving you “permission” to email them in the future. Not a good way to start a relationship.

I know that most everyone reading this has zero intention of tricking anyone. That’s why I am blogging about this. I am seeing spammy situations on my client’s websites and I know it is totally innocent.

The pop up world is adding to this “messy” situation.

More and more of us are landing on websites and getting a pop up window. We all are getting pretty used to it and most people (according to the statistics) are not all that bothered anymore as long as it’s easy to close the pop-up. We just move on to the business at hand on the page. Remember when we all “hated” banner ads? We learned to ignore them. In fact, they are barely used anymore because they became “invisible” to us.

For the moment, pop-ups (or Light Boxes as they are also known) are really very effective. I will admit that I am considering using them myself.

But some of them are really so limited that you barely can say more than a few words. This is where people get into trouble. Among the most important words you might choose are:

  • Join my list (for this that or the other reason)
  • Get update emails (for this that or the other reason)
  • Sign-up for future promotions and (this that or the other reason)
  • Subscribe now and you will enjoy (this that or the other thing.

If you look around my site, you will see lots of invitations everywhere. And they all have one thing in common. I am focused on having people join my list to stay informed, learn more stuff, get free things, and (this or that and the other reason) with a clear CTA – call to action – every time.

Take a look at your online invitations. Don’t assume people know they are getting on a list. That could cost you $10,000 Canadian Dollars.

And by the way, how many people have clicked for your free offer, but then didn’t sign-up when it then became clear they were getting on a list. Yikes. You may never know. How many people have you lost from your site forever because they felt manipulated. Yikes again! The sad thing is, they probably would have signed up if they had been asked in a straight-forward way!

How would you feel if you thought you were just going to get sent the free white paper, but the next screen was congratulating you for signing up for an email list? Or the free white paper came as a pdf inside the welcome to our list email you got in your inbox seconds later?

Don’t make it seem like a bait and switch.

That’s just not going to get you off to the right start. First impressions, especially online, really matter.

Here’s an example from me. Here’s the part where I put my money where my mouth is:


Join my list to keep learning more and more and more stuff!

And if you ever get tired of my rants, just unsubscribe! No hurt feelings! ‘-)

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