CAN-SPAM: Where’s the Meat?

CAN-SPAM: Where’s the Meat?

The CAN-SPAM Act went info effect Jan. 1 and, although its enforceability is weak, it gives Web marketers a taste of things to come.
CAN-SPAM (controlling the assault of non-solicited pornography and marketing) was passed December 2003 in an effort to reduce the flow of unsolicited e-mail (SPAM). According to the new law, businesses sending commercial e-mail to customers must:
Clearly label commercial e-mail as advertising
Use a truthful and relevant subject line
Use a legitimate return e-mail address and provide a valid physical postal address
Provide a working opt-out tool
Process opt-out requests within 10 business days
The CAN-SPAM ActappliesAct applies to nearly all businesses in the United States that use e-mail to generate commerce. For example, all e-mail newsletters and other promotional e-mails are governed by the act. Businesses are responsible for all e-mail they send, even if they outsource the marketing. If you have an affiliate program, you could also be held responsible for the e-mails sent by your affiliates to market your goods.
Although difficult to enforce, careless e-mail marketers could face fines and penalties if they fail to comply with the new laws. The greatest thing these marketers have at stake is their reputation: Few individuals benefit from unsolicited commercial e-mails and businesses that use it are viewed as fly-by-night operations.
Compliance seems simple if you rely on honest practices for e-mail marketing:
Make sure your unsubscribe system works.
It needs to be reasonably easy for someone to opt out from future e-mails. After you remove them, remember them. Keep a current list of all individuals who have opted out to ensure they don’t get added to your list again through other sources.
Know the source of e-mail addresses.
Make sure they are obtained legitimately. Be suspicious of any addresses offered by CDs, download services or linking partners. Better yet, only send e-mail to customers who have give you permission to do so. Or go one step further and use a double opt-in system. This will ensure that people have given you express consent to send them e-mail.
Don’t create messages that can be mistaken as SPAM.
Remind individuals receiving the e-mail how they opted in. Use a return address that they will recognize it and use clear statements that describe your subject in the content line.
Get to the point.
Short e-mails are more likely to be read. Use good grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Don’t overdo it.
Most industries don’t need to send e-mail out daily or even weekly to their customers. Only send out an e-mail when you have something valuable to share.
Experts agree that the CAN-SPAM Act is only the first step toward stricter legislation of commercial e-mail. The act calls for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the implementation of a “Do-Not-Email” list and also prohibits “harvesting” e-mail addresses from Web sites
The reduction of illegal and annoying SPAM will be good for legitimate businesses that use permission-based marketing and honest business practices.
Good e-mail marketing practices will keep you out of trouble and ahead of the competition.
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Troy Janisch is president and founder of the Icon Interactive Group (www.iconinteractive.com), an industry leader helping companies integrate Internet and other Interactive media into sales channels, marketing strategies, and overall branding. He can be contacted by email at tjanisch@iconinteractive.com.
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