Email Marketing Strategy – Are You Accidentally Sending Spam?

Hello Mails

April 29, 2010

You’d never intentionally spam anyone.  But that may not matter.  According to a 2008 Marketing Sherpa study, 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 how do you avoid getting reported as a spammer?


What does the law say?


In December of 2003, Congress established the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM).  This law identifies practices all commercial emailers must follow, spells out penalties for spammers, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them.  There’s also a bill being considered in Congress that would extend this law to include text messaging on cell phones.


Here’s what you need to know:

You may not give false or misleading header information. Your email’s “To:” and “From:” lines must be accurate and must identify who is sending the email.

You may not use deceptive subject lines. The subject line of the email must not mislead readers about the contents of the email.  Deceptive emails are also subject to further Federal Trade Commission regulations prohibiting false or misleading advertising.

You must give readers an opt-out method. You must give either an email- or Internet-based opt-out method, and it must remain open for 30 days following the email.  Once you get an opt-out request, you must stop emailing that address within 10 days.  You may not sell or transfer opt-out email addresses to any other entity.

You must identify your email as an advertisement or solicitation. This notice must be clear and conspicuous, and you must let readers know they can opt out of receiving further commercial emails from you.

You must include a valid physical postal address. This needs to appear in every email advertisement, solicitation, or newsletter.



Note that CAN-SPAM does not regulate “transactional” or “relationship” business emails – defined as those emails that facilitate an agreed-upon business transaction or update a customer in an existing business relationship, other than stating such emails may not contain false or misleading routing information.


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.


How do you avoid sending spam?


Follow the same email marketing strategy that many national marketers use.  Know your customers well enough to never send spam.


Keep a scrupulously clean list – with readers that have opted in and want to hear from you.  A double opt-in list is best.


Also, make the opt-out message clear and easy to find, to reduce the chance that someone reports you as spam in lieu of formally removing themselves from your list.


But most importantly, send consistently relevant messages that are so compelling, your reader won’t even think about reporting your email as spam.


That’s an impressive goal, and consistently achieving that level of quality can be tough.  But with the right copywriting and a clear strategy, you’ll not only NOT be considered a spammer, you’ll also get a much higher return on your marketing efforts.



Beth Carter, Naperville copywriter and founder of Freelance Writing Solutions, helps businesses communicate the messages their customers want to hear.

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