In 2003, Congress established the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM). This act regulates the practice of email marketing and gives consumers certain rights.
Presumably, no reputable marketer would knowingly engage in spamming. First, it’s unethical and can permanently damage a marketer’s reputation. Second, the FTC and the Department of Justice have the ability to level severe fines – up to $11,000 per violation, which they have done in a few high-profile cases of truly criminal spammers.
But a 2008 Marketing Sherpa study shows that 21% of business professionals surveyed said they use the “spam” button to unsubscribe from lists – regardless of whether they opted in to the list in the first place. And 39% said they use the “spam” button often or very often.
So what happens if your email marketing strategy unwittingly gets you reported as a spammer?
Chances are that if the spamming was accidental, the Justice Department is unlikely to fine or prosecute you. However, your internet service provider may not be so understanding.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may disconnect you. ISPs have their own reputation at stake, and most have strict policies about using their services for sending bulk emails, limiting the number of emails you can send per day.
Your website hosting company may shut down your site. Like ISPs, most hosting services also have rules against sending unsolicited mail, and if they get too many complaints against you, they have the right to shut down your site.
Your IP address can get blocked by major internet companies. If you get identified as a spammer, all the major ISPs – AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, and others – will block email coming from your domain name, meaning emails you send to anyone using those services will not go through. And don’t count on getting your blacklisted domain address unblocked; you’ll have to create a whole new online identity for yourself instead.
And of course, if you send email that is considered to be spam by too many people, you’ll lose customers and your reputation. And no one wants that.
Keep a clean list. Double opt-in is best.
Make it easy to opt out. Reduce the likelihood that someone reports your email as junk rather than going through an arduous opt-out process.
Send targeted, relevant and compelling messages. Know your audience and make sure your message speaks directly to them with a clear and compelling message.
With the right strategy, you’ll not only steer clear of anti-spamming laws, you’ll also enjoy a better relationship with your customers and a better return on your email marketing efforts!
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