When it comes to getting the most marketing bang for the buck, email marketing is at the top of the list. A well-crafted email message will not only keep your audience engaged, but it will also generate valuable feedback that will enable you to fine-tune future campaigns. 

Effective email marketing requires that you cut through the noise of crowded inboxes without being annoying or spammy. Marketers walking the tightrope between clickbait and conversion must also be aware of consumer protection laws prohibiting certain commercial practices. Bad email practices can cause customers to unsubscribe from your mailing lists and lead to fines and penalties. 

Benefits of Email Marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic changed how consumers shop and spend. Post-pandemic, consumers are increasingly shopping online, spending more carefully, and reevaluating their brand loyalty. 

These trends are a mixed bag for businesses. On the one hand, there is an opportunity to capitalize on changing customer behavior. On the other hand, businesses are themselves recovering from the pandemic, and marketing budgets are still lagging behind pre-pandemic spending. 

Businesses thus face the increased challenge of fostering loyalty with decreased budgets. One way to do more with less is to go with a tried-and-true tactic like email marketing. According to Litmus, email return on investment (ROI) is $36 for every $1 spent—higher than any other marketing channel. HubSpot reports that in 2022, more than one-third of brands were planning to increase their email budget. 

Spending more on email marketing does not guarantee that your campaigns will be more effective. Companies should pay attention to metrics such as click-through rates, open rates, and conversion rates to gauge email marketing performance. HubSpot additionally recommends drilling deeper into metrics such as subscriber lifetime value and acquisition cost per subscriber. The more data you have about email campaigns, the more you can optimize your strategy and drive better results. 

Are Unsolicited Emails Illegal?

Buying or renting email lists is generally a bad idea. Getting thousands of new prospects for relatively cheap may seem like a shortcut to marketing success, but it may not be the best strategy in the long run. 

The best customer data (including email addresses) are the data that you personally collect from customers. This is known as zero-party data and first-party data. Second-party data, which you obtain from trusted industry partners, can also be valuable. Third-party data like rented lists can supplement first, second, and third-party data, but accuracy, credibility, and recency are risks. 

But is it illegal to email somebody you have not personally received an email address from? It may be, depending on where a customer lives. Under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires consumers to opt in to emails, purchased email lists are non-compliant and could lead to fines. 

Here in the United States, there are no laws prohibiting the sale of email lists, although more states are adopting privacy legislation similar to Europe’s GDPR. However, state privacy laws present new obstacles for email marketers (more on that below). 

In short, while it may not technically be illegal to send an unsolicited email to your US customers, getting permission from recipients is considered a best practice. Building your own email list takes more work than buying one, but your efforts will be rewarded with customers who have a genuine and organic interest in your offerings.