If you didn’t already have enough considerations as an email marketer, there’s a major one you should be aware of. Along with deliverability, email reputation, and avoiding the spam filter, you also need to consider how anti-spam laws affect you.
In the EU, pretty much everyone is aware of GDPR. However, in the United States, the major email law is the CAN-SPAM act, which can force you to pay a fine of up to $42,530 if you’re not careful.
To ensure that you never have to go through the hassle of paying a fine, here’s everything you need to know about CAN-SPAM best practices.
What is the CAN-SPAM Act?
The CAN-SPAM act is a law that was passed way back in 2003. The acronym stands for “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing.”
As you might have guessed, this means marketers cannot send commercial messages to consumers without their permission. This applies to email marketing, as well as to any other form of digital communication.
The CAN-SPAM Act is meant to clear the digital streets for consumers to move freely, without having to worry about finding their actual emails under the pile of commercial emails they have no interest in.
If you’re wondering, there aren’t any exceptions for B2B marketing.
What is a CAN-SPAM opt-in?
Among the many directives in the CAN-SPAM act, the most vital is its opt-in requirement. All this means is that you can’t send commercial emails to someone without them choosing to receive them first.
Luckily, this law shouldn’t have any effect on an email marketer following best practices. After all, one of the tenets of email marketing is that an email list full of quality subscribers—those who are engaged with your emails—is far superior to a list full of subscribers who don’t won’t to hear from you. In email marketing, quality over quantity is key.
However, this rule is only the beginning of what makes up the CAN-SPAM act.
Here are some of the other best practices for avoiding the wrath of a CAN-SPAM fine.
1. Avoid phony header information
All of the information surrounding the header of your email has to be true, with no exceptions. This includes the “from,” “to,” and “reply-to” sections. In other words, you can’t pretend an email is from a person’s friend and make it sound like the friend is pitching your service.
All in all, you aren’t allowed to misrepresent yourself to the recipient.
That would obviously unethical, and it’s illegal, too.
2. Don’t get duplicitous with your subject line
In the same vein as misrepresenting your header information, you need to make sure your subject line isn’t duplicitous.
This means you can’t put in your subject line, “Act Now for a Free iPhone,” then fail to have anything in your email related to a free iPhone. That’s basically cheating in order to get higher open rates.
This doesn’t mean you can’t create a cheeky subject line, just make sure it’s related to the contents of the email. For instance, a subject line that says, “You’re Not Going to Want to Miss This,” is vague enough that it could work for most situations.
But if you make a specific claim in your subject line, you need to back it up.
3. Be transparent
You must tell the recipient of your email that it’s an ad, a stipulation we’re starting to see implemented in other realms of digital marketing as well.
This requirement guards against companies sending out emails as if they were from a third-party—or actually contracting a third-party as is the case in influencer marketing—who recommends a company’s products or services without receiving something in return.
Having the correct header information, using the POV of your company, and having a footer with your logo/company info should be enough to let your readers know your email is an add and will have you CAN-SPAM compliant.
4. Include your company’s address
At some point in your email, you need to include your company’s mailing address. While you can include this anywhere, it’s generally put at the bottom with your logo and the rest of your footer.
Depending on the nature of your company, this could be a street address or a private mailbox with a commercial mail agency.
This guideline fits in with the general theme of the CAN-SPAM act, as it’s about being frank with your mailing list. Veiling your identity when trying to sell a product online is a big no-no.
As you can see in the email below, the address is added at the bottom in a discreet way that doesn’t conflict with the overall design of the email.
Source: Really Good Emails
5. Add an unsubscribe option to your emails
According to the CAN-SPAM Act, your emails must include an unsubscribe option, whether it’s a button or a link. In addition, you must give the user a clear indicator of how he or she can opt-out of any future messages.
If you’d like, you can manufacture your unsubscribe process to include specifics, meaning the user can unsubscribe from a certain type of email, but stay subscribed for another. Even if you do that, a master unsubscribe option must still be available.
You may not like having to add an unsubscribe option to your emails, but doing so can be beneficial to your email marketing program (in addition to keeping you CAN-SPAM compliant, that is).
If people who aren’t interested in your content are unsubscribing, it means you’re mailing list engagement can actually go up. It’s better to have a smaller, more active mailing list, then a larger, less active one.
6. Stop sending emails after a customer unsubscribes
As a companion to the preceding practice of adding an unsubscribe button to emails, you must also ensure that you honor the customer’s subscription request within 10 days.
It’s also illegal to attach a fee to an unsubscribe button or to require the user’s personal information before unsubscribing them. In addition, you can’t make the user go through a series of hoops in order to unsubscribe.
It must be a simple, intuitive process, such as clicking a link. But, like most aspects of the CAN-SPAM Act, obeying the regulations not only keep you compliant but strengthen your email marketing program and your brand’s relationship with consumers.
If someone doesn’t want to be on your email list anymore and unsubscribes, keeping them on your list is disrespectful and probably motivated by greed. No one wants to do business with a company like that.
7. Keep your eye on your email marketing service
If you’ve hired an outside email marketing service that sends out emails for you, you’re still responsible for their behavior. That means that if they go against the CAN-SPAM act in any way, you are still responsible and can be fined.
If you want to make sure you’re aboveboard, keep an eye on any third party email services and make sure they’re following the CAN-SPAM act best practices.
What are CAN-SPAM text messages?
In case you’re wondering, the CAN-SPAM act applies to text messages in the same way it applies to email marketing.
When using SMS marketing, you must always be transparent, include an unsubscribe option, and never send messages to people who haven’t opted in.
The only difference is that CAN-SPAM doesn’t apply to messages that come from other mobile phones. For instance, if you’ve ever received a text from a politician’s campaign during elections, you’re receiving a text from a volunteer, not a business number, so CAN-SPAM doesn’t apply.
The only messages that fall under CAN-SPAM scrutiny are those that are attached to an internet domain.
Is the CAN-SPAM Act different in 2019?
While the act remains largely unchanged 16 years later, there have been changes in the way people communicate online and in the email marketing field.
However, the passage of GDPR in the European Union and the frequency of discussion around privacy and data in the digital sphere, you can expect to see people’s concern for their privacy continue to grow in the future.
If you can take the concepts around the CAN-SPAM Act and apply them to other types of digital marketing, you have the chance to prove to your customers and prospects that you care about their privacy and respect their wishes.
Putting transparency, honesty, and respect for customers at the forefront of your digital marketing practices will only help you turn customers into lifelong brand advocates.
Email marketing is all about bringing in revenue for your brand, not losing it. Therefore, you’ll want to avoid breaking any of the CAN-SPAM guidelines, as they bring with them a five-figure fine that will counteract months of hard work.
To adhere to the CAN-SPAM best practices, this is what you need to know:
Don’t lie in your email’s header.
Keep your subject line consistent with your email’s content
Make sure your clear that your email is an ad
Include your company’s address with every email
Every email needs to have an unsubscribe option
Customers need to be unsubscribed within 10 days of their request
Any emails sent under your brand are your responsibility
All of these directives don’t just apply to emails, but to text messages, as well. Any kind of digital communication falls under the CAN-SPAM guidelines.
While the act was passed in 2003, its contents remain largely the same in 2019, thought the landscape of email marketing requires some extra supervision.
As long as you stick to the CAN-SPAM act’s simple rules, you’re free to go wild and create the greatest email marketing campaign anyone’s ever seen.
Disobeying the CAN-SPAM act is only one of the ways that email marketers can get in trouble. Here are some other behaviors you’ll want to avoid.
Read more: campaignmonitor.com