Question One: How do I make sure I don’t break the law?
I’ve been asked this question many, many times by people interested in email marketing, and this question always surprises me, because it is very easy to avoid violating federal law when you’re sending permission email to your customers, prospects, readers, or members.
In fact, there is far too much worry and concern about breaking federal law that is justified because the federal law is proving to be very weak on clamping down on spam. Now I don’t mean to say this is a good thing, because I think the federal law should have been much stronger; however, it does make it easy for you to avoid violating the law. The truth for legitimate businesses is there is little to be concerned about as long as you respect your customer and conduct your email marketing campaigns in accordance with a high level of respect and integrity.
For example: a company that respects its subscribers would always offer its subscribers an opportunity to opt-out of any email list or newsletter. This same opt-out mechanism is of course stated in the federal Can-Spam law. It really doesn’t need to be stated there because any person conducting high integrity email marketing automatically puts opt-outs in each email because they want to keep their subscribers happy and they don’t want to anger prospects or customers who don’t want to receive their emails.
You can also avoid running afoul of the federal Can-Spam law by making sure that you document the permission of each person you are emailing. This is also very easy to do. Simply make sure that you have a subscription form that sends out a confirmation email—the double opt-in process—and then make sure that you respect the permission of each subscriber by only emailing those who are remaining on the list.
There are several other things you must avoid to stay in compliance with the federal Can-Spam law, including not harvesting email addresses from the web, not engaging in what are called “dictionary” attacks, and not using misleading subject lines or email headers. In other words, don’t do the kinds of things that spammers would do. Make sure your email is sent only to people who have opted-in—those who have given you permission to send them email—and ensure your email message is relevant to that person. Again, it should also have a clearly labeled subject line and offer each subscriber and opt-out mechanism in case they do not wish to receive further emails from you.
Staying in compliance with the federal Can-Spam Act is very simple, and the vast majority of honest, responsible email marketers who have experience in the business will have to make absolutely no changes to their email campaigns in order to comply with the law. The only ones who will have to alter their behavior to comply with the law are, in fact, the same people who would never comply with the law: the spammers.
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