Email Marketing: CAN-SPAM 101

As marketers, we use email blasts, or at least should be using email blasts to keep in touch with our customers. Those in the marketing field are also probably very aware of the CAN-SPAM act. CAN-SPAM, Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing….yep, marketing and pornography are together as one.

In short, the act establishes rules for commercial marketing emails and grants the recipients the right to opt out. The act also lays down the penalties for violating these laws. Though many of us know the generalized idea of CAN-SPAM, simple mistakes can be easily overlooked. Those oversights can cost you $16,000 per email so we’ve collected a list of must haves for you to check before you hit send.

  1. Have a clear and easy to find Unsubscribe link. It is illegal not to allow your recipients to easily opt out. There are some gray areas here but the most ethical and legal option is to have the Unsubscribe button or link very clear at the bottom of the email. Don’t hide the link within a paragraph of legal jargon, if someone doesn’t want to receive your emails hiding the link is just going to add fuel to the fire. If a user must search for a way to unsubscribe they may report you as Spam and that’s bad news!
  2. Remove users that have Unsubscribed. If someone clicks “unsubscribe” you need to make sure they are taken off your email list. The user needs to be removed within 10 days of opting out. Make it clear after a user unsubscribes by adding a message that says they will be removed within 10 days. If you use an email system such as Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc. the user will be automatically removed from the recipient list.  
  1. Clearly identify who you are. You must have you or your business name in the “From,” “to,” and “reply-to” fields of your email. Simply put, the recipient must know who the email is coming from when they see it. Use your name in addition to the business name.
  2. Have a clear subject line. You’ve identified yourself, that’s great but you also need to specify what you are emailing about. Your subject line should tell your recipient exactly what they will get by opening the email. You can really shine on this part by having a two-part subject line to help the recipient understand the purpose of the email. Note that CAN-SPAM does not require a two-part subject line.
  3. Don’t mislead the recipient. Have you ever opened an email and got completely blind-sided by the content? Perhaps you received an email with a coupon and you click on the site only to find out you have to spend a certain amount of money before the coupon applies. Make your subject line a true representation of the content of the email. Don’t use grease ball tactics! If you have a special offer that included free shipping when you spend $100, don’t have your subject line read “Free Shipping.” Your subject line AND content needs to be 100% accurate and clear.
  4. Include your physical location. Again, most email systems automatically generate this field but it is required by law to include a valid postal address.
  5. Allow your recipients to receive some of your emails while opting out of others. You see this all the time when you opt out of an email. You click unsubscribe and a list generates with checkboxes asking what types of emails they wish to no longer receive. Don’t forget, you must keep the option to unsubscribe from all marketing emails.

We aren’t attorneys so this list shouldn’t be used as legal advice so it’s important to learn the in’s and out’s of the CAN-SPAM act, be ethical and use email etiquette when using email marketing.

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