Blast Away—Surveys Are Not SPAM
That Nespresso survey I got via my work email—surely it must be SPAM, right? I have no relationship with the company and have never inquired about it. Some sleazy market research company harvested a huge list of e-mails and blasted it out to hundreds of thousands of people like me. So I decided to report them to the Marketing Research Association (MRA) for violating our industry’s code of ethics. But in doing so I discovered that the latest industry advice is that email solicitations for surveys, even to total strangers, are not SPAM.
The MRA, after many years of lobbying and interpreting the ongoing application of relevant legal statutes, advises that “emails for survey research purposes do not qualify as spam.” The reason is that unless you’re FRUGGING or SUGGING, the primary purpose of a survey invitation is not, in the words of the FTC, “commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.”
Technically, then, Nespresso and their hired guns are free to do whatever they want when it comes to sending out surveys. And technically, so are you. But we strongly advise against it, and Versta Research would never do it, because (1) it still feels like spam to customers, and it will likely anger many of them, and (2) it still looks like spam and you are likely to get blacklisted by ISPs for sending it.
Indeed, take a look at the terms and conditions of a self-service tool like Survey Monkey and you’ll notice zero-tolerance policies that terminate accounts that are not fully compliant with anti-SPAM protocols, no matter what the FTC says.
You should have a zero-tolerance policy as well, which includes adopting these best practices for emailing survey invitations:
- Send only to people who have given you permission to email them or with whom you have an established business relationship
- Use a valid reply-to email address owned or managed by you
- Never use harvested, purchased, or rented mailing lists from list brokers or sample suppliers unless they can provide proof that the recipients have opted-in
- Do not send to any recipient who has opted out, unsubscribed, or otherwise objected to receiving such messages from you or another party on whose behalf you may be commissioned
- Provide a simple online means or a toll-free number to opt-out of future e-mailings
- Use a well-known commercial bulk e-mail service (not the one built into your survey tool) that aggressively terminates spamming accounts and works with ISP companies to remain clean
P.S. The survey also offered a quid pro quo: In exchange for me completing the survey, they would enter me into a sweepstakes to win $50. Never do this. It is illegal and here’s why.