3 Best practices for Email Marketing Security
Email is an intrinsic part of building and maintaining customer relationships in any field, but customer data needs to be safeguarded. Because email marketing is so prevalent, it can be easy to take this platform for granted. However, it’s also important to remember that client information is sensitive; your customers entrust your business with their names, Social Security information, and credit card or bank account numbers.
Each field has its own security needs, and a privacy breach could reveal all of the above information and more. When it comes to email marketing for customer retention, it’s critical to ensure that all emails are secure from harm.
The Effects of Data Breaches
Data breaches can be catastrophic for large and small businesses alike. In one recent major hack, Anthem Inc., the country’s second largest health insurance provider, was severely compromised. Hackers managed to get their hands on all kinds of information that belonged to both customers and staff members. Stolen data included associated individuals’ names, birthdays, medical identification numbers, street addresses, email addresses, income data, and Social Security numbers. Approximately 80 million people were affected.
Anthem isn’t the only company that has come under fire as of late, but this breach definitely constitutes the largest ever recorded in the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, the compromised information is only one small piece of the negative ripple effect these incidents can have.
A recent study about customer experience reports that data breaches have an enormous impact on brand reputation. When data is compromised, customer fears about identity theft rise exponentially. Prior to having their personal information stolen, only 24 percent of survey respondents had concerns about identity theft. After an incident at Experian, the number of concerned respondents rose to 45 percent.
Why and How Consumer Relationships Matter
As email marketers, we tend to spend a lot of time discussing topics that affect the content we produce. Relevance, automation, delivery, and interactivity all rank high on the checklist, and for good reason. After all, content is at the heart of any business’ relationships with its clients, and using interactive platforms like email helps us reach out in new, targeted ways.
With so much focus on content, the topic of data security may seem a little mundane – but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. If anything, research has shown that transparent data security is integral to appeasing consumer concerns.
Customers’ fears can have an enormous impact on how they engage with your brand, according to another survey conducted by Symantec. In the UK, 59 percent of consumers expressed that they were worried about the safety of their personal information. As a result, people self-censor and sometimes even falsify the information they provide about themselves online.
How to Improve Your Email Security
Because more and more businesses – both big and small – rely on email for communication, networks have become more and more vulnerable to highly sophisticated external viruses, Trojans, spyware, and malware. In part, it’s up to your business to consider the risks involved with email marketing and plan ahead for potential attacks.
Consider the following 3 ways to enhance your company’s email marketing security, which will, in turn, help bolster relationships with consumers who will feel reassured knowing that their personal information is safe from harm.
1. Invest in Appropriate Software
A high quality email client will do more than just deliver content; it will also ensure all brand and customer data is protected with rigorous security protocols. Find software that offers a comprehensive and multilayered security solution. If a hacker can’t penetrate more than one tier of protection, critical email data will be that much safer.
Email encryption should include three levels of security: first, your connection to your email provider; second, your email messages themselves; and third, your archived messages. Basic firewalls provide little protection and can be dangerously simple to hack, which is why multiple layers of encryption will help prevent unmonitored communication between corporate networks and external online predators.
To find the right program for your company, do a little research – different solutions will work for different businesses.
2. Filter Your Outbound Mail
Inbound consumer information shouldn’t be your sole concern. If critical business data is leaked, both brand security and reputation will be imminently compromised. For example, if your SMTP data is stolen, hackers can send spam and malware through SMTP-verified accounts.
By filtering your outbound email, you can reduce the chance your business will send a virus or other malware to your clients. Email filters can block large, malevolent attachments from being delivered and prevent company information from being leaked.
Again, different businesses have different needs for outbound mail filtering, which is why it’s best to find a scalable email client that can provide multiple levels of protection. Implementing a transparent SMTP proxy is one strategy that can counter this problem. Companies can supplement a proxy by using data leak prevention software.
3. Keep Internal Systems Clean
Part of safeguarding information is to ensure that all employees who handle sensitive data are properly trained to do so. If you’re not sure which parts of your business are most vulnerable, consult an IT company that can help you conduct a security audit. A professional can determine which areas need the most reinforcement.
Conduct regular trainings as threats and anti-threat solutions develop, ensuring all policies reflect the most recent best practices. For example, staff members should have a unique password for each login account to prevent what’s called a “dictionary attack,” in which a hacker uses an automatic program to crack passwords based on existing words in the dictionary.
Clear, simple policies will leave no room for error, and will help foster a company culture that prioritizes security – and will also make it clear if someone on the inside is acting suspiciously or in a way that could compromise data.
All in all, maintaining your professional reputation as a business rides heavily on protecting sensitive data. While it’s hard to place a dollar value on trust, the consequences of breaking that trust create enormous problems for businesses, not the least of which include major monetary losses.
By protecting sensitive information in the first place, you’ll avoid severe financial and legal consequences while establishing your products and services as a safe, trustworthy investment for consumers.
Thanks to Larry Alton for sharing his advice and opinions in this post. Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter