I periodically see confusion as to what is legal when it comes to email newsletters. Even when people are reading the actual CAN-SPAM Act. I’m not going to cover every part of it. I’m going to address the most common mistakes.
Sometimes I get email from spammers that claims their email is sent in accordance with the CAN-SPAM Act. No, it’s not. If I have no prior relationship with an organization and haven’t signed up for their newsletter, they are in violation. Putting that in the bottom of an email does not make them compliant. Not at all.
So here’s the first thing you need to be clear on: buying a mailing list, even one that the seller claims is opt-in, is often a bad idea. More often than not, they’re not opt-in. It doesn’t count if the email addresses were harvested from sites where the Terms of Service tell users their email will be sold (because who reads those? Mostly just weird people like me). It doesn’t count when users are notified by small print at the bottom of the page, or hidden elsewhere on the site. That information needs to be right in front of the user’s face. Hiding the fact that an email address will be sold is not informing people their email will be sold. It’s, um, hiding the fact that their email address will be sold. And this is a common tactic from those selling “opt-in” email lists.
What is Opt-In?
Opt-In means someone signed up to receive your newsletter, usually via a form on your website. They did it knowing they would get a newsletter from you. It’s that simple.
Can I Ever Send A Newsletter to Someone That Hasn’t Opted-In?
Actually, yes. BUT…only in certain situations. The CAN-SPAM Act says that if you and the person you are emailing have a prior business relationship, and you are sending emails that assist in continuing that relationship, then you can email them without them having fill out an opt-in request. You can include commercial content (where you are trying to sell them something) but the primary message must be transactional (information that continues the business relationship).
For example, I can send emails to my current clients to give them information about changes at GeekArtist Web Solutions. I can let them know about new procedures or other changes in the company. However, if I want to send an email that is just selling them new services, they must have opted-in to the email newsletter list. If I were sending a notice to my clients notifying them of a new staff member, I could include links to our other services on part of the email. But the main message must be about the new staff member. I can’t just give one line about the new staff member, then fill up the email with sales content.
I Don’t Want to Include an Unsubscribe Link
That is not optional. If you want to send a compliant email, you must have an unsubscribe link. Some people are afraid to put them in because they are afraid everyone will unsubscribe. If you’re that concerned about it, I would ask you why this worries you. If you have helpful information, or users have signed up for the newsletter, or these are current customers, most will likely stay subscribed.
I Don’t Want to Include My Mailing Address
This is also not optional. If you run your business out of your home and don’t want to give your physical address, get a Post Office Box. A P.O. Box address is fine for email newsletters. But either a physical or P.O. address MUST be on the email.
The CAN-SPAM Act has a few more details you will want to be aware of. I have only addressed the more common pitfalls. You may find your situation is not addressed here. Make sure you visit the Bureau of Consumer Protection website and read their The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business.
- Enfamil Demonstrates How NOT to Run An Email Marketing Campaign
- Wanna Kill Your Business? Buy An Email List
- 12 Email Newsletter Tips for the Non-Techie
Related Posts From Other Sites