It’s the Law: 7 Email Marketing Rules You Should Know


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Did you know there’s a law about sending emails? It’s called the CAN-SPAM Act. And if you’re “promoting or advertising a commercial product or service through electronic communication,” you have to comply with the law or face some hefty penalties. Don’t worry though, VerticalResponse is here to break through the political jargon and help you understand the rules.

Before we dive into those rules, let’s talk about the law’s history. Back in 2003, President George Bush signed the CAN-SPAM Act bill into law in an effort to stop the onslaught of spam that landed in everyone’s inbox. The law was updated in 2008. The truth is, if you aren’t a news buff, you might not know the ins and outs of the law.

“Some small businesses may be aware of certain conditions specified within the CAN-SPAM Act, but I think that very few are familiar with the entirety of the law,” says Jesse Ignell, a marketer for Computer Market Research. With Ignell’s help, we’ll outline the seven key components of the law that you, the email sender should know and follow:

1. Tell readers where your email is coming from
The law focuses on honesty. The “From,” “To” and “Reply to” labels need to tell the recipient where the email comes from. In other words, these fields should contain the person’s name or the business name sending the email.

2. Write an honest subject line
Your subject line should reflect what’s in the email. You can’t be deceptive here. In other words, don’t write “Claim your $500 gift card” in the subject line just to get people to open an email that’s really about a new product. Here’s a snapshot of a few to the point subject lines:

CAN-SPAM Act Vertical Response

3. Recognize you’re sending an ad
Acknowledge that the email you send is, in fact, an ad. This isn’t necessary if everyone on your list has given you permission to send emails. We strongly suggest that you get permission from all of your subscribers before sending emails. And most email service providers, like VerticalResponse, require you have permission prior to sending any email through their service.

4. Give an address
Each email must contain the postal address for the person or business sending the email. It helps to show your business is a credible one, and offers another way for your recipients to opt-out of your emails if they need to.

5. Every email needs an easy opt-out option
Your subscribers must be able to easily opt-out (or unsubscribe) from your messages. You have to give this option to your subscribers in every message you send. At the bottom of the email, you can provide a link to unsubscribe. The process should be easy too; that was one of the additions to the law in 2008. Here’s an example of an opt-out option.

6. Honor opt-outs quickly
If a subscriber wants off your list, you have 10 days to do it. You can’t charge any fees for this service, ask for any personal information, or sell the person’s contact information to another company. Most email service providers will manage this process for you which is another plus to using an ESP.

7. Monitor what others do for you
If you hire another company to manage your email list, you will still be held responsible if the company breaks any of these rules.

The law is all about using good judgment. We know you’ve got that. But when you set up your next email campaign, it doesn’t hurt to check it against this list of rules to make sure everything is legit.

If you’d like more information, The Federal Trade Commission offers a compliance guide on its site to help small businesses comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.



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