A fun fact about me: I'm engaged, but I'm also one of those girls that never really thought much about what her wedding would be like. Right after getting engaged, I started doing some research on different vendors in my area that I could use for my wedding. I signed up for a bridal show (that I never attended), requested information from vendors I liked, and then decided that I'd rather get married in Las Vegas. Now, my email inbox is flooded with emails from all of these different vendors that want to know if I've picked a date and if I'm interested in using them for my wedding.
But here's the problem: Not all of the businesses I requested information from have ways for me to easily unsubscribe from their emails. Even worse, some businesses are still sending me emails even after I've asked to be unsubscribed.
As an inbound marketer, it's my job to stay up-to-date on CAN-SPAM laws and to make sure that I'm complying with all of the rules when I send out emails for my clients. However, I realize some business owners may not fully understand CAN-SPAM laws and how they apply to their email marketing efforts.
Disclaimer: I want to stress that I am not a lawyer. This post is not intended to be legal advice, and you should always consult with an attorney on how to interpret CAN-SPAM laws.
What is the CAN-SPAM Act?
CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. The CAN-SPAM Act was enacted in 2003 and regulates all commercial email messages. In the eyes of the law, a commercial email message is any electronic mail message where the primary purpose is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.
Even though some parts of the CAN-SPAM Act are fairly straightforward, there are others that are a little bit more confusing. Here's a breakdown of CAN-SPAM's main requirements.
Your recipients must have a way to unsubscribe
Out of all of the emails I've received from wedding vendors, this is by far the biggest mistake businesses are making. Most of the vendors I talked to are sending out emails from their personal email account rather than going through an email service provider such Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. In turn, they don't have unsubscribe buttons at the bottom of their email, and there's no way for me to opt-out of their emails.
Did you know that it's actually illegal to not have a way for your recipients to unsubscribe? At the bottom of your emails, there should be clear button that allows someone to unsubscribe from email communications. At Impulse Creative, we give all of our email recipients a way to easily unsubscribe by including an unsubscribe link in the footer of our emails.
You must unsubscribe people from your email list if they ask
Even if you make it easy for people to unsubscribe, you still need to follow through and make sure they're opted out of your emails. You don't have to do it that day, but you must make sure they're opted out within 10 days of their request. Most email service providers have a way to automate the unsubscribe process, making it easy to ensure you don't accidentally send an email to someone who has unsubscribed.
You need to make it clear who the email is coming from
When you send out an email, you need to make sure it's clear who the email is coming from. This should be conveyed in the "from" and "reply-to" lines of the email as well as in the contact information in the footer of your email. All of this information helps to accurately identify the person or business sending the email.
In the example below, you can see that the email is coming from Rachel Begg. It's clear that Rachel is sending this email on behalf of HUGSWFL, and there's absolutely no room for confusion.
Your subject line needs to reflect what the email is about
In addition to making sure you clearly identify yourself when you send out an email, it's also important to make sure your subject line reflects what the email is about. In the example above, the subject line is, "We're reminding you of the awesome HUGSWFL meetup tomorrow." This subject clearly conveys that we're reminding you about the HUGSWFL meetup, and you can expect that the body of the email will provide details about the event.
As you create your emails, find ways to make it clear what you're sending them. Think to yourself, "if I were to receive this email, what would I want the subject line to be?" Always make sure that your subject line is a reflection of what your email is about, and never mislead your customers in your subject line.
Other important CAN-SPAM requirements
- If you're sending out an advertisement about one of your products or services, you must clearly identify the message as an ad. There's a lot of leeway with this, and there are many different ways to identify an email as an advertisement.
- Your emails always have to include your valid physical address. This can be your current street address, a post office box, or a private mailbox.
- If you outsource your email marketing to an outside agency, make sure you monitor what they're doing. If something goes wrong, both your company and the agency you hired will be held responsible.
The best way to avoid any CAN-SPAM violations is to do your research about the law and to understand how it applies to your email marketing efforts. The Federal Trade Commission has some great information about the CAN-SPAM Act on their website, and it's a good place to start if you want to learn more about how to remain compliant.
This blog post is designed to help our readers understand some of the legal issues surrounding email marketing. However, legal information is not the same as legal advice, and we insist that you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our interpretation of the law is accurate.