By Melissa J Luther
Remember the CAN-SPAM Act, enacted in 2003? Neither do many email marketers, if the amount of spam clogging email boxes each day is any indication.
CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, and it sets out rules marketers must follow when sending out commercial messages, defined as any content promoting commercial services or products. It applies to all advertising emails, including business-to-business communications.
CAN-SPAM doesn’t seek to stop commercial emails, only to regulate how those emails are presented, and the rules are things that legitimate businesses should be doing anyway.
CAN-SPAM says you must clearly label advertising as such. Subject lines that are obviously commercial, like “This Week’s Specials” or “View our New Collection” are CAN-SPAM compliant.
More ambiguous subject lines, like “We need to talk,” may not be. This subject might be truthful, if your email discusses how a conversation with you would benefit the recipient, but it is also deceptive because it sounds personal but is actually commercial. If you use this type of subject line, you must add the word “advertisement,” as in “We need to talk (Advertisement).”
You have 10 days to comply with any opt-out request, but it is safest to make it instantaneous. Most reputable bulk email vendors automatically insert an opt-out link at the bottom of each email.
Every email sent in violation of CAN-SPAM is subject to up to $16,000 in penalties, so it is in your best interest to follow the rules, which are really quite reasonable. You have plenty of leeway for creativity in your email marketing; just do it within the confines of the CAN-SPAM Act.
Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.