Email marketing is an awesome way to increase your business. You can encourage purchases, renewals, referrals, engagement and more. Many businesses have figured this out and many have also abused it. The FTC stepped in in 2003 and passed the CAN-SPAM act to decrease the abuse and misuse of email marketing.
If your emails aren’t compliant to the rules of the CAN-SPAM act it can cost you a pretty penny. A single violation (meaning one itty-bitty email) can cost you up to $16,000.
Staying compliant is simple, but it does require some work on your part when you’re setting up your email campaigns.
You must accurately identify yourself when sending emails. This means that your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information must be correct and represent the business that is sending the email.
- If you’re worried about receiving lots of replies to one employee’s email address, set up a generic email address to field responses or utilize a no-reply email address. Both are acceptable as long as they use the correct domain that represents your business.
- If you manage multiple brands, make sure that you have email addresses set up with the correct domain for each brand. Don’t send marketing emails for one brand using a “From” or “Reply-To” domain of the other brand.
In addition to representing yourself accurately in the header information, you must also provide your physical address. This can be a street address, a P.O. box or a private mailbox, but it must comply with Postal Service regulations.
Don’t Use Clickbait Subject Lines
When creating subject lines it can be tempting to use unrelated buzzwords and misleading phrases to get more opens. Don’t do it! Just say no! CAN-SPAM requires that your subject lines accurately represent the content of the emails being sent. Good marketing suggests that you don’t try to dupe your readers.
“While these sugary sweet titles may trick our brains into clicking, in the long-run, click bait is bad because it overpromises and underdelivers. The content doesn’t usually live up to the bluster and in the end we’re left disappointed. So while the article itself got a few extra clicks, it undermines trust in the person or site that generated that content, making readers less likely to return in the future.” –Jonah Berger
Be Upfront about your Advertising
If you are working with an email list that you did not create (read: you got it from a third party) you need to be clear that you are advertising. These people did not opt in to your emails, so you must let them know that you’re sending them marketing emails. There is some wiggle room on how to do this, but make sure you err on the side of not committing an expensive violation.
Employ Effective Opt-Out Processes
Recipients must be able to opt out of your email communication simply and effectively. This means there has to be an accessible opt-out link in every email, and you must actually honor those opt-outs. Opt-outs have to be processed within 10 days to be compliant.
- Opt-out links must be easy to find and follow from your email communication. You can’t require anything other than the email address or visiting a single page for an opt-out. Once someone has opted out, you cannot “touch” their email address. No further communication, no selling it off to a third party.
- Most email marketing platforms will not allow you to send emails without the proper opt-out functions. Platforms like this will also process opt-outs for you and exclude email addresses automatically so you don’t have to worry about it.
Monitor your Partners
If you outsource your email marketing to a third-party, you are still legally responsible for what is being sent on behalf of your business. Make sure that you use a trusted vendor and subscribe to whatever they are sending for you.
- Confirm that your vendor is CAN-SPAM compliant in their practices.
- Require test emails be sent to you before they are distributed.
- Be familiar with CAN-SPAM regulations yourself.
If you’re ever in doubt, you can visit the FTC website for clarification. Keep your hands clean and your emails cleaner! No one wants a $16,000 fine!