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Best Practices: A Meaningless Term

Laura Atkins

Chad White wrote an article for MediaPost about best practices which parallels a lot of thinking I've been doing about how the email marketing industry treats best practices.

After several conversations recently about "best practices," I'm convinced that the term is now meaningless. It's been bastardized in the same way that the definition of "spam" has shifted to the point that it has very different meanings to different groups of people.

I have actually had clients tell me things like "we follow all the best practices" only to tell me later in the phone call that they go out of their way to ignore opt-outs. When a company ignores opt-outs as a matter of policy and then feels safe claiming they follow all the best practices then the term is totally meaningless.

Best practices as I tend to think of them are technical implementations of commonly accepted policies. It's how you translate intention into action.

With email marketing, though, there are very few commonly accepted policies. In fact, I'd argue that there are no commonly accepted policies. There's not even any real consensus on whether or not permission is necessary to send email.

If you can't even agree on the first principles, like permission, then best practices is a totally meaningless phrase. In fact, in many cases when a client tells me they follow all the best practices it tells me nothing about what they are actually doing. Instead we have to go back and establish what they're drawing the term best practices from.

All of these things that just confirm Chad's observation that best practices is a totally meaningless term.

By Laura Atkins, Founding partner of anti-spam consultancy & software firm Word to the Wise
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Related topics: Email, Policy & Regulation, Spam
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Please don't say that. Benjamin Billon  –  Nov 12, 2010 3:57 AM PDT

"Best Practices" may be a meaningless term in the mouth of your clients (aka students), but when it is used by the other side (teacher's), it has to be full of innuendos like "you have no idea how far you are from them right now".
IMHO BCP are essential and mandatory guidelines, and you can tell the clients you're talking about that what they call "Best Practices" are not "ISPs' requirement" and therefore can't lead to good messages delivery.
If "BCP" may have different meanings for different people, "ISPs' requirement" involves a third party they can't cheat with!

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