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There are many reasons why e-mail marketing can be an effective channel for credit union marketers. Some of the benefits include: reduced cost (as low as pennies per message); the ability to target by segment; the ability to quickly test, measure and modify campaigns; and real-time response (e-mail programs generate results within days, as opposed to the weeks, even months, required to produce results via direct mail). While the benefits can be numerous, many credit unions have not yet begun to leverage this channel for better member communication and more personalized service. Why? Most credit unions are in the early stages of collecting their members’ e-mail addresses. To utilize e-mail marketing, credit unions need to obtain their members’ e-mail addresses and ensure that they are current through ongoing list management. The challenge lies not in collecting the addresses themselves, but in collecting them in a manner that’s consistent with the credit union philosophy – “not for profit, not for charity, but for people”. To meet the challenge, permission e-marketing – where the member gives permission to receive e-mail messages from the credit union – makes sense. What constitutes permission, however, is the subject of heated debate (and occasionally, litigation) among the direct marketing industry (represented by groups such as the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and the Responsible Electronic Communication Alliance (RECA), and activist groups, such as the Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS). Although there are variations, generally there are three common methods of e-mail address permission – opt-out, single opt-in and double opt-in. With opt-out, members receive e-mail messages until they unsubscribe from the list. Here, approval is inferred by a member’s continuing to remain on the list. Opt-out lists are built by collecting e-mail addresses without disclosing the use of the address for marketing purpose. In single-opt in, the members add themselves to the list by giving the credit union permission to send e-mail messages. The member has received disclosure as to how their address will be used. Double opt-in takes this a step further. Once the member opts in, the credit union sends an e-mail to confirm the members’ intent to opt-in. Only after the member confirms their intent are they added to the list. There is no “industry standard” yet for obtaining permission, or consensus yet for which of these methods is best. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) advocates “verified opt-in”, which is essentially opt-out; the verification only validates that the e-mail address is a valid address. In contrast, MAPS’ position is based on two principles: All communication must be consensual, and; no one should ever have to unsubscribe from a list they did not intentionally subscribe to. To adhere to these principles, MAPS believes that double opt-in is the only acceptable subscription method. MAPS also publishes guidelines as Internet standards and best practices for what they consider proper mailing list management. These guidelines are as follows: Permission of new subscribers must be fully verified before mailings commence; There must be a simple method to terminate a subscription; There should be alternative methods for terminating a subscription; Undeliverable addresses must be removed from future mailings; Mail volume must take recipient systems (ISPs) into account; Steps must be taken to prevent use of a mailing list for abusive purposes; Terms and conditions of address use must be fully disclosed; Acquired lists must be used for their original purposes; The nature and frequency of mailings should be fully disclosed; and One subscription, one list. As a middle ground, a group of Internet marketing companies formed an alliance to self-regulate the e-mail marketing industry. This alliance, the Responsible Electronic Communications Alliance (RECA), advocates single opt-in as a general rule for most “house files” (where a marketer mails to its own list). In addition, in cases where a “close transactional relationship” exists, opt-out is also acceptable. Which method is best? That’s difficult to answer. Ideologically, MAPS position offers the most protection for credit union members, and best meets the pro-member credit union philosophy. But what do you do with your existing list, which may have been collected through single opt-in? Does the validity of this list need to be re-confirmed through double opt-in, even if you’ve used it a number of times without a single member complaint? As many credit unions are now beginning to formulate e-marketing strategies and collect addresses, a combination of MAPS and RECA principles likely makes the most sense. Firstly, ask members to join the credit union’s mailing list by disclosing the purpose and frequency of e-mail communications, and disclose the credit union’s privacy policy (including whether or not the list is made available to third parties. Once the member joins the list, send a verification message, and ask the member to confirm their desire to join the list (in other words, employ a double opt-in process when adding new addresses to your list. For your existing e-mail list, provide a number of conspicuous opportunities to unsubscribe, including via e-mail, via telephone, or in person. And finally, ensure that you respect member’s wishes when they request to be removed from your list – nothing angers an e-mail recipient more than unwanted e-mail that keeps coming, despite repeated requests to be removed from a list. This constitutes Spam, and will not only hurt your relationship with your members, it can also cause you to be identified as a “spammer”, blacklisted by MAPS, and result in the rejection of your e-mails by ISPs. MAPS maintains the Realtime Blackhole List, which is used by ISPs to keep spammers from sending e-mails through their networks. Responsible e-mail marketing should be considered by credit unions as a low cost means of personalized member communication, and one which can dramatically strengthen the relationship between members and the credit union. For further information visit: * Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS):www.mail-abuse.org * EMarketer:www.emarketer.com * Direct Marketing Association (DMA):www.the-DMA.org.

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