Feature Article (Pub: January 04) Anti-Spam laws & Web Marketing by Tim Fidgeon

There has been a lot of publicity recently around the subject of a new European law coming into effect that bans the sending of unsolicited email (Spam).

This is a good thing, as Spam has been a scourge of Internet users for years and everyone has been justly complaining about having their Inbox flooded with adverts for Viagra and Pornography.

The first thing to make clear is that this will not be the end of Spam. The law is only enforceable within European countries, and the majority of Spam now emanates from Eastern Europe, which will not be covered by the law.

The second issue relates to some people being unclear as to whether or not this means the end of email-based Web Marketing.

The short answer to this is 'No'.

Any reputable Web Marketing firm should be operating from 'opt-in lists'. An 'opt-in list' is a list containing email addresses of individuals/companies who have previously agreed to receive promotional emails about certain goods or services.

As long as your firm is working from such opt-in lists, Web Marketing remains a perfectly legitimate business activity.

We should, however, be thankful for the fuss that this law has provoked as it has thrown into sharp focus the need for any company entering into Web Marketing to have a clear strategy as what they are doing, and why.

Too often, Web Marketing campaigns are fuzzy and unfocused - without any clear goals or intended audience.

In any other form of advertising, this 'throwing mud at a wall and seeing what sticks'-approach would be unacceptable.

The reason that so many campaigns on the Internet fail is that many businesses are unaware of the techniques and expertise required to design and execute an effective campaign.

My advice would be for all companies to look closely at what their Web Marketing firms are actually doing.

  • Are they taking the time to understand your business and its needs?
  • Do they who your target audience/market are and how to reach them?

It is important to realise that there are 'opt-in' lists for almost any product, service or interest group one could imagine. This means that there are people out there who have expressed a desire to receive information on the product/service your business offers.

If you are not marketing your company to these people, you should ask yourself: 'why not?!'

An additional way of ensuring you are getting a good deal from your Web Marketing firm is to bear in mind that a good campaign should be developed with significant input from the client and iteratively improved.

If your Web Marketing company is not giving you data about the effectiveness of the campaign, then how can you tell if they are doing a good job? How will know which elements of the campaign are working and which are not?

There are, of course, additional criteria, but the above are the most fundamental.

If your current supplier isn't offering you this kind of service you are wasting time and money and it's time to change.

Tim Fidgeon (MSc HCI) has worked as information architect and usability consultant for a number of FTSE100 companies for 9 years leading a variety of projects, and heads the usability team at CommerceTuned.

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