Series: Understanding the law: CAN-SPAM

Series: Understanding the law: CAN-SPAM

Full disclosure: We are not attorneys or experts in the law and this is not legal advice. Please consult your attorney and do your own due diligence if you have questions or issues.

You’ve got a killer product and a great team to support that product. It doesn’t do you any good to keep it to yourself. Everyone will love what you have to offer. You just need to get the word out, and after doing some marketing research you’ve decided an aggressive email campaign seems tailor-made for what you want to accomplish.

However, before you crank up your marketing campaign, there are some laws to keep in mind. In this, the first of our series on Understanding the Law, we’ll take a look at the CAN-SPAM Act and how to stay on the right side of it.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (short for the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) was originally created to protect consumers from unrequested emails from spammers, particularly those of a pornographic nature. It can make for pretty dry reading, so fortunately the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government agency charged with enforcing the act, has laid out several main sections that can be used as a sort of checklist to make sure your email campaign passes muster.

Identify your company in the heading of your email. Make sure to include your company’s name in the ‘from’, ‘reply to’ and ‘routing’ sections of any email you send. It’s not only honest, but if you feel strongly enough about your product or service, why wouldn’t you what to put your name in an email about it?

Identify your intent with the email. In other words, the subject line in the email should clearly indicate why you’re sending the email and what you’re trying to accomplish. It can be a bit of a challenge, because you’re trying to keep your subject line short, sweet and at the same time make it catchy enough so it doesn’t end up in the digital trash can. Just be careful to keep it honest as well.

Indicate that you’re sending an ad. You don’t have to put it in the subject line, but you should definitively state the fact that you’re sending an ad somewhere in the message. For example: “this advertisement sent to you by Company X.”

Include your physical location. It seems simple enough. You wouldn’t give someone a business card without your address on it. Don’t send an email without it either.

Clearly note that the recipient has the ability to opt out. An opt-out obviously isn’t the result you want, but there’s no sense in acting like the house guest that refuses to leave no matter how many hints are thrown their way. Make opting out easy and straight forward.

Quickly honor the requests of those that opt out. It’s not only polite, it’s good business. The would-be customer may not be interested in your product at the moment, but ignoring their requests and continually sending them unwanted emails is a sure way to sour them on your entire brand.

You also need to be vigilant, especially if you’ve assigned someone else in your team to handle emails or you’ve turned to a third-party vendor. The FTC can assess a penalty of up to $16,000 per violation. Remember even if someone else is doing the work, it’s still your name that’s on the email and ultimately, it’s your responsibility to make sure the emails you send meet the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act.

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