Using affiliates for your email marketing offers great leverage for increasing your company’s exposure and to attract new customers. Affiliates allow your company to gain exposure to new markets without having to own the data. In many cases, affiliates may have a specific demographic breakdown, which can allow you to run a more targeted email marketing campaign, thus greatly increasing your conversion rate. Essentially, affiliates can help increase the ROI of your email marketing efforts.
Of course, with using affiliates, it’s important to make sure that they are complying with data protection laws in markets where they are running campaigns for your business. Otherwise, you could be liable for penalties under that jurisdiction. Yes, even though the affiliates are running the campaign for you, it is up to you to make sure that the emails are compliant by suppressing opt-outs from the campaign.
So I know what you’re thinking: is there a risk of giving the opt-out addresses a third-party affiliate? Is there a risk for potential abuse? Email marketers, by and large, are ethical and appreciate being paid well for a valuable service. They know it’s not worth the risk of misusing email addressing. They can potentially lose your company’s business and create a bad reputation for themselves.
But let’s take the worst case scenario. How would you protect your opt-out data from abusive practices? Traditionally, seeding has been the most common way to monitor data misuse, but not to actually prevent it. Seeding is basically the practice of adding a unique email address to the opt-out list, which notifies you of any unauthorized email messages. A more effective way of preventing abuse is the practice of server side scrubbing. This technique is executed by securely uploading the affiliate’s list to a web-based platform and electronically removing the opt-outs. This protects the affiliate’s data and yours at the same time.
Some affiliates may be averse to server side scrubbing, but if the privacy and platform security issues are discussed, it should be an easy hurdle to overcome. Bear in mind that respectable affiliates want to establish long-term relationships with their clients. And they can be almost guaranteed to have your repeat business by agreeing to server side scrubbing.
Another way to protect your opt-out addresses is to “hash” your data. Hashing is a form of encryption that converts plain text into numeric values so that they are not decipherable (e.g firstname.lastname@example.org becomes d41d8cd98f00b204e98). MD5 has been around since 1992 and is a common tool used, not only by email marketers, but government agencies as well! Think of The DaVinci Code when you ponder MD5, hashing and encryption 😉
The main point is that your data is valuable and there are tools that can help you protect it.