Using Email Ethically

Posted by Jesse Willms on September 08, 2010

Jesse Willms - Using Email Ethically

Making money online is great and we’re fortunate to be able to support charities like Kiva and World Vision, but I strongly believe in making all of my profits ethically. This includes the way I use email to grow my business.

Anyone who has ever worked in Internet marketing knows that building your email list is one of the cornerstones of long-term success. But, you have to do it the right way.

Some people try to use email to drive short-term profits at the expense of a long-term business relationship with their customers. The truth is, there is a very fine line between legitimate business emails and spam – and you can’t ever cross that line.

Customers like to get emails that inform them of special offers that help them save money or that make them aware of new, exciting products. They don’t, however, want their inbox to be filled with annoying spam.

That’s why I’ve created a set of ethical guidelines when it comes to my company’s email advertising.

  1. Make the customer aware when they provide their email that you may contact them with special offers and information from time to time.
  2. Don’t overwhelm them with emails. Use email sparingly, and only when you have something really interesting to communicate.
  3. Ensure that it is as easy as possible for them to “opt out” of receiving your emails.
  4. Never sell their email addresses to a third party – because you cannot be sure they will behave as honestly and ethically as you will.
  5. Don’t hide the source of the email. It’s easy to mask who is sending an email. Don’t do this. Use honest email addresses to send your emails and you’ll build trust.
  6. Your headlines must actually reflect what is in the email. It’s tempting to put a really exciting headline on the email to get people to open it. But, if the headline has nothing to do with the email itself, it will turn people away from your company.
  7. Make sure everyone in your company is aware of your email policies and follows them to the letter.

That last point isn’t as easy as it may seem. Yes, I try to be as ethical as I can whenever I do business, but no man stands alone. I have an entire team of people that work for my companies, and each and every one of them is empowered to make their own decisions as they do their jobs.

The problem, of course, is that I can’t supervise everything they do every day. And, each time they write or design an email is a chance for them to make an ethical error.

In many ways I understand why they may be tempted to do the wrong thing. After all, sometimes it’s easier to not make the right ethical choice. Or, they may want to impress me by creating an email that delivers a high level of short-term profits – even though it could hurt my reputation in the long run.

For that reason, I’ve created an in-house set of ethical email guidelines.

This packet is distributed to each and every employee, and I make sure they read it and understand it. I ask them if they have any questions. Then, I require them to keep it posted prominently at their workstations so they are constantly reminded of it.

In the future I’ll be making more posts about other areas where companies can improve their ethical practices and continue to update and refine my standards of email ethics. I’m always willing to hear input from other people on how they can be improved.

It’s just good business.