Can I use e-mail as part of my business's direct marketing?
E-mail is a valuable tool in this day and age for many businesses' direct marketing campaigns. E-mail is an inexpensive and efficient way to target potential customers, especially for small businesses.
E-mail marketing is not without risks, however. Any business considering the use of e-mail in its direct marketing campaign must be aware of the Federal CAN -SPAM Act of 2003. The CAN-SPAM Act became effective at the beginning of 2004, but many small businesses may not be fully aware of its provisions.
The CAN -SPAM Act requires all unsolicited commercial e- mails to include:
- Labeling as an Advertisement All commercial e-mail must be labeled conspicuously as an advertisement. That label does not have to be in the subject line, however.
- Opt-out Mechanism All commercial email must contain a way for the recipient to request to be taken off of the sender's mailing list. Any opt-out request must be honored within 10 business days.
- Sender's Physical Address All commercial e-mail must contain a valid, physical postal address.
- Sender's Return Electronic Address All commercial e-mail must contain a valid return e-mail address so that a recipient can ask to opt-out of your marketing.
Other requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act include:
- Ban on False, Deceptive, or Misleading E-mails or Subject Lines A commercial e-mail may not include false deceptive, or misleading information, whether in the text of the e-mail or in the subject line. As we all know, misleading subject lines are a favorite tactic of spammers, who try to fool you into opening their spam e-mails with misleading subject lines.
- Labeling Requirements for Sexuallyoriented E-mails AlI commercial e-mails containing so-called "adult" content must be labeled consistent with Federal Trade Commission regulations, which include certain notices in the subject line.
The requirements of the CAN -SPAM Act are not difficult, but they do pose some pitfalls. For example, if you fail to honor an opt-out request, or someone in your business unknowingly places an opt-out name back on the mailing list, you can be subject to fines. The CAN -SPAM Act includes both civil and criminal penalties, including sizeable fines, so it is important to ensure compliance. Plus, if your business is tagged as an e-mail offender by an internet service provider, you may be in the unfortunate situation of having that provider screen all of your e-mail, whether sent for marketing purposes or in the regular course of business.
If you do decide to use e-mail as a part of your marketing, here are some tips to ensure compliance with the CAN -SPAM Act:
- Develop a E-mail Marketing Policy Develop policies to ensure compliance. Make sure one person or department is in charge of administering your e-mail marketing and your mailing list so that optout requests will be honored within the 10-day time period. If multiple people inside your business are sending unsolicited commercial e- mails, you increase the risk of sending e-mail to someone who has requested to not be contacted.
- Label all Unsolicited E-mails as Advertisements While you may feel it makes your marketing less effective if it is labeled as an "advertisement," this is a clear requirement of the CAN -SPAM Act which must be adhered to.
- Keep Controls on Your E-mail List Consider limiting your e-mail marketing list to those potential customers you know really have a need for your services. The more broadly you send e- mails, the more people you are likely to offend, and you will greatly increase the number of optout requests you have to deal with.
E-mail can be a powerful tool for marketing in this increasingly electronic age. You can incorporate e-mail into your marketing plan so long as you are careful to comply with the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act.