People are sensitive to spam because it costs them time and money. To avoid spam complaints – and get your e-mail messages in front of potential clients – you should educate yourself about e-mail marketing industry standards. Groups like the Email Sender and Provider Coalition and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) offer best practices for sending e-mail.
You have probably heard about CAN-SPAM or CASL, but do you know what they mean and how they affect your business? CAN-SPAM is a federal regulation of commercial email messages in the United States. CASL is Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. A commercial email is any email you send with the main purpose being advertisement or promotion of your company. These are different than transactional emails, which are emails you send to clients that they expect to receive as a result of doing business with you.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) breaks down the rules and the main requirements for compliant e-mail marketing. CASL regulates all commercial electronic messages (CEMs) where a computer system located in Canada is used to send or access the CEM. CEMs you send that are accessed in Canada are subject to CASL’s requirements. This includes emails you send to your Canadian clients and prospects, as well as emails accessed by recipients while traveling in Canada. Under CASL, it is your responsibility to find out whether the CEMs you send are being accessed in Canada. For information on the differences between CASL and CAN-SPAM, click here.
If your email is found to violate the CAN-SPAM Act, it could cost you $16,000.
Avoid the Embarrassment and Penalties by Following these Email Marketing Best Practices and Requirements
Here are some of the best practices from the DMA and the FTC:
1. Get Permission: Don’t send commercial e-mail to people who have not given you permission to do so. Getting permission is called affirmative consent. DMA research shows that getting permission drives higher response rates and lower complaint rates. Once someone subscribes to your list, the best practice is to send them a welcome e-mail that gives them one more opportunity to opt-out. This is called a double-opt-in.
2. Be Honest: Don’t use false or misleading header information and don’t use deceptive subject lines. For a complete list of email requirements from the FTC, read this short guide.
3. Stay Relevant: If you keep your content relevant – that is, stick to the information recipients expected to receive when they gave you permission to send them e-mail – then you are more likely to avoid spam complaints. The DMA suggests using subject lines that describe the content of the e-mail and making sure your brand name is visible so the reader knows who the e-mail is from.
4. Follow ISP (Internet Service Provider) Rules: E-mail providers have rules. If you follow them, your e-mail is less likely to be marked as spam. The DMA suggests seeking the e-mail provider’s “whitelist criteria” to avoid filters that block your message from getting to its willing recipient.
5. Keep a Clean List: If you want to run a successful drip campaign, you need to keep your database of e-mail addresses up to date. According to the DMA, sending e-mail to addresses that no longer exist causes problems with e-mail providers. E-mail providers expect you to remove people from your list who unsubscribe and remove outdated e-mail addresses from your list. You can identify outdated e-mail addresses because they usually bounce back.
6. Educate Your List: If you want to stay off an ISP’s blacklist, the DMA suggests educating your recipients. Tell them how to add you to their approved list or whitelist so the e-mail provider doesn’t block your message. The DMA says you can also encourage recipients to click the “unsubscribe” button if they no longer want to receive e-mails from you rather than reporting them as spam.
7. Respond to Complaints: If someone on your list does complain that you are sending them unsolicited e-mail, don’t ignore them. The DMA recommends removing complainers from your list immediately before they take further action.
Handled correctly, e-mail marketing can be an effective – and cost effective – lead generation tool. It’s simple for your clients to forward your e-mails to friends and family, creating a viral effect that extends your reach.