CAN SPAM Act – E-Mail Marketing the Inside Story

1. Spam is spam

I would like to clear the definition of spam here. Any unsolicited commercial message is spam. Even if you send such messages to your friends, family members, or subscribers, you are spamming them. They just don’t report you or opt-out because of the special relationship they share with you.

Some businesses take undue advantage of this and spam their clients/subscribers on a regular basis. Two such culprits are Web Pro News and GoDaddy. I use their services, so they think they have the right to spam me every second day with their products and offers.

Such types of tactics should be avoided. If email marketing can make your brand, it can break it too. In short, don’t take advantage of the special relationship you share with your target audience by bugging them with your mails every now and then. Unless you have any major announcement, don’t mail them. RSS Feeds are meant for website updates, not e-mails.

2. US legalizes spam

As far as I am aware, the US is the only country that has legalized spam and this is evident from the fact that they have the CAN-Spam Act of 2003.

the CAN-SPAM Act is commonly referred to as the “You-Can-Spam” Act because the bill explicitly legalizes most e-mail spam. In particular, it does not require e-mailers to get permission before they send marketing messages.
Source: wikepedia

In short, as long as you follow the CAN-SPAM act guidelines you can spam like hell. Following are the CAN-SPAM Act Guidelines (summary) which your e-mail must follow if it is a commercial mail:

  1. The sender’s address must be accurate and must identify the person or company who sent it. It means you can’t mask your real identity.
  2. The subject of the e-mail message must not be misleading. It should be relevant to the body of the message.
  3. The message should clearly identify itself as an advertisement.
  4. The message should clearly specify the physical address of the sender (Post Box no. is allowed).
  5. The mail should clearly specify the unsubscribe (opt-out) mechanism. It should also be workable and must unsubscribe the recipient within 10 business days.

3. E-Mail marketing is a dirty business. Deal with this fact

There is no such thing as a legitimate mailing list in email marketing. Nobody likes to see commercial messages in his/her inbox whether it is from a friend, family member, acquaintance, or complete stranger.

Spam is spam. So if you do email marketing it makes complete sense to purchase an email database of the target audience and spam them (but in moderation like once or twice in a week after every one month). In short don’t bombard them with your commercial messages to the point, that they start hating you/your brand.

You can’t be a saint and a mobster at the same time. So keep this thing in mind that every time you send out a commercial message, you are doing something which can’t be considered as positive karma.

4. Never use your domain/server to spam

Never send out emails, especially a large volume of mails, using your mail server and domain name. Guys who are hardcore email marketers buy hundreds of domains and dozens of IP blocks every month just for spamming and use these domains in their emails. These domains are then 302 to the main site.  So even if a domain or IP is reported and blocked, the parent site doesn’t get into trouble.

If you are a small business and can’t afford to buy hundreds of domains and IP blocks every month, then use a third-party email marketing software. This way, if something bad happens (like blockage of IP), your email marketing company will bear the consequences and not your domain and mail server. However, both you and your email marketing company can be considered legally responsible if there is a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.  The violation may result in a hefty fine or jail term.

5. Fact about the newsletters

Publish and distribute newsletters at the same time, so that they can get indexed by the time they are opened and read by the majority of your readers. This will stop your competitors from taking any SEO advantage by publishing them on their websites before you do.

Send out newsletters only to your subscribers and not to all the members of your site. Nothing can be worse than spamming people with your newsletters. It is a sure-fire way to destroy your brand in the shortest possible time. I get newsletters from Perry Marshals every week which I just delete even without opening. My only mistake was at some point making a purchase from his site and accidentally opted-in for his newsletter.

In short, your client/member doesn’t deserve to be spammed unless and until he/she opts for it. So don’t make your newsletters opt-in by default. If you still can’t resist, then at least keep an eye on the mails which are never opened. If a client is never opening your mails or never clicking on the links inside, then it is in your best business interest to automatically unsubscribe him after a particular period of inactivity before he decides to chuck you out from his shopping cart.

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Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of Optimizesmart.com

Himanshu helps business owners and marketing professionals in generating more sales and ROI by fixing their website tracking issues, helping them understand their true customers' purchase journey and helping them determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

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