How Do I Ensure Legal Compliance for my Corporate Email Campaigns?
If you’re like most people, your Inbox is flooded every day with tons of unwanted email from people and robots you’ve never met– and frankly, don’t want to meet. From porn emails to get-rich-quick schemes, to automatic emails sent relentlessly from sites you visited, most of us have learned to live with the onslaught of unwanted email that seems to be part of our lives. And most of us have learned to simply send them to Spam without reading them. We know that these emails are often full of links, which if clicked upon, threaten to break our computers, steal our address books, send out unwanted emails in our names, and possibly leave us with a slew of unwanted viruses and other seamy problems. But is this type of email, sent without permission, actually legal?
Back in 2003, the U.S. Congress passed what they called the CAN-SPAM Act, which defined the minimum standards for legal bulk email marketing.
Fun fact: CAN-SPAM actually refers to the full title of the act, “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003”.
While all email marketers have to follow the CAN-SPAM Act standards or risk legal prosecution, the bar is set relatively low for permission-based email. As much as we’d like to be able to give permission before being bombarded with unwanted email, the Act does not address the idea of permission at all. Many marketers find this loophole appealing and send out what their recipients consider to be spam in full legal compliance. But many other marketers believe non-permission-based emails are wrong, if not exactly illegal. And the results often bear that out with low delivery and open rates.
Permission-based email refers to the type of list used by the sender for his email campaign. Over the last decade or so, marketers have fallen into several camps regarding email lists. Some continue to send out emails to bulk lists of people with whom they have no previous relationship. That is NOT permission-based emailing. And while it is not illegal, is it ethical? Is it in good taste? Is it effective? It depends!
Many marketers target lists of previous customers with email marketing and that is called implied permission. The relationship existed before the email was sent. Intuitively, we would expect better results, and this is often true.
Express permission refers to lists in which the prospect actually permits one’s name be placed on that list, often by checking a box on a website, or allowing their name to be added to a list for future mailings when downloading an e-book or white paper, for example.
All three types of lists have their practical applications when using corporate email. And all three can just as easily be used in emails that violate Can-Spam regulations.
Short List of CAN-SPAM Compliance Issues
Today, most corporate email is sent using CAN-SPAM compliant email services and templates. But DIY emails abound and not all of these are legal. If it’s not the list that makes an email campaign in violation of the ACT, what exactly is it? We were curious about what it takes to actually violate the Can-Spam Act, so we took a little visit to the FTC website. Here’s what they say:
“Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
- Identify the message as an ad.
- Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law.
What Does Fresh Focus Group Recommend?
Most of the time, we recommend permission-based emailing, and we will work with you to build your current lists to leverage both implied and express permissions. We are often able to build a large email list for you over time that complies with anti-spam laws, and often results in higher than average open and click-through rates. However, when we are dealing with a new market for your existing product or service, or perhaps a brand new product to a new target audience, we have no choice but to purchase a list of prospects from a reputable list dealer. Oftentimes, open rates are quite low, but effective subject lines and quality content in corporate email campaigns can often make a huge difference in results.
In addition, we like to use a reputable email client, such as MailChimp, to host and send our corporate email campaigns. Not only do they have built in all the compliance features mentioned above, they also provide excellent analytics on your email campaign performance, down the exact moment your prospect opens the email and exactly which links they click. This makes email marketing one of the most illuminating efforts you can use to view prospect behavior.
Regardless of the list you use or the service on which you establish an account, email marketing is relatively inexpensive and generally quite effective with an excellent ROI. Results come from good quality content, good timing and good lists. And it’s not all about lead generation. Many of our clients use email marketing to keep in regular contact with their existing clients, especially in price-sensitive categories like insurance, commodities, even financial services, where good customer service can sometimes make all the difference in keeping or losing a client.
No matter what your business, when a thoughtful strategic marketing approach is used, email marketing can work. Effective campaigns start with effective marketing planning. Need more information? Call or email us and we’ll be happy to chat with you.
For discussion: How do you deal with Spam on all your devices? Let us know in the comments below.