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Tradeshow Follow-Up Post CASL

Even though Canada's Anti-Spam Law came into effect July 1, it appears meeting planners, exhibitors and event attendees are still very much confused about what they can and cannot do with email marketing.  I had the pleasure of answering questions at IncentiveWorks a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still getting requests to present this fall.

At Greenfield we've written extensively about what the CASL means for Canadian and even foreign organizations who are sending an email to Canadian recipients.  We get asked all the time, and yes, even non-Canadian companies are affected by this law because they can be sued by Canadians, if they don't follow the rules.

But for now, let's look at what you should or should not do if you are following-up with attendees after a tradeshow where you exhibited:
  • Unless someone signed a form (online, using a tablet, or an actual paper form) where you specifically ask them to "opt-in" to receive further electronic communication from you, you do NOT have express consent.
  • If someone gave you their business card, or just dropped it in a bowl for a draw, you have implied consent only.  This means you have 6 months from the date of that show to "convert" the prospect to an opt-in, or else you must stop email them.  If you fail to do so, and the recipient feels you have been spamming them, they could report you to the Canadian Radio Telecommunications Commission.
  • Getting an attendee "scanned" does not give you express consent; it is exactly as if the person had dropped their card in a bowl, except that you don't have to enter their contact information manually. This is because you have no "proof" that it was the recipient whose badge you scanned and there is no clear agreement as to what the person consented to.  So you still only have 6 months to market to them electronically and get opt-in.
  • If you do business with someone after the tradeshow, you should still get them to opt-in expressly.  If you don't, you have two years from the date of the transaction, to continue sending commercial electronic messages.  Unless of course, they buy from you again (every time there is a purchase, the "timer" resets).
What can you do if you don't have someone's consent?  You may:
  • call them: engage in a conversation, see if you are a fit for their needs. If they are, send them whatever information you discussed, and ask them to opt-in!  Otherwise you'll be right back to square one in 6 months.
  • call them and ask for a verbal opt-in: it is a little known or understood fact that you can call someone and get a verbal opt-in.  For this to work you must ask them a "security question" that would prove you had a conversation with them about consent.  When we do this type of work for our clients, we ask for the person's first letter of their city of birth.  If you do this, but be SURE to keep this information in your database, along with the date and time the conversation took place.
  • mail them: depending on the number of delegates and what you are selling, a smart direct mail piece with a strong call to action may present a better option.  It's even more powerful if you call after they've received the piece and you engage them in a conversation!  This will boost your lead rate and your sales.
  • see them in person again: the problem with email or traditional mail is that they don't necessarily help us forge relationships.  Personal interaction does.  Maybe a side effect of this law will be to force us to go out on sales calls again!  Then, when someone has met you in person a few times, there is less danger they will think of your next email as spam.
We often hear that 80% of tradeshow leads are never followed up on.  The CASL sure doesn't make it easy for anyone to improve that percentage, but the successful sales people will find a way!