Email Marketing: Understanding the Law and Permission Rules
Once you start engaging in email marketing (that is, marketing your products and/or services through sending customers or potential customers information via email), it’s important that you understand and comply with the laws that have been created to protect you and the consumer. Remember that these laws protect both the business and the consumer. When you look at it that way it doesn’t seem as bad that there are laws regarding email marketing.
Educate Yourself and Your Affiliates
Read and get to understand the CAN-SPAM Act on the Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center. This will help you enormously when you are creating your email marketing campaigns. The law isn’t really hard to follow.
Essentially, you cannot mislead anyone via deceptive information, headers or subject lines; you need to let your readers know the message is an advertisement; include your location on every communication; and tell readers how to get off your list and remove them immediately. In addition, if you have affiliates, you need to be sure to keep an eye out to ensure they are following the law, too.
CAN-SPAM is at http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business
All Unsolicited Emails Are Not Illegal
You may not realize that once someone has purchased from you, you may put them on your email list. Sending email advertisements to customers is not considered unsolicited emails, and emails sent to corporations aren’t considered unsolicited. So if you do B2B work then you have a little bit of an easier time marketing to those businesses. But, in general, any direct marketing emails that are sent without permission (former customer or opting in) are illegal and should be avoided.
Choose a Reputable Email Autoresponder Service Provider
It will help tremendously to choose a reputable email autoresponder service provider like AWeber.com, MailChimp.com, or GetResponse.com because their requirements on you match the legal requirements. If you’re following their terms of service, it’s unlikely that you will break the law. When you sign up for a service, read the terms of service carefully so that you don’t break their rules because they will cancel your account if you engage in spam activity – whether it’s on purpose or due to ignorance.
Be Safe and Follow the Path of Least Resistance
Even though technically you can send emails to your customers, it’s best to always get your customers to opt in as much as possible to receiving information. Always explain clearly what to expect from signing up for your list, and then follow through. Avoid buying lists (even though that’s not technically illegal) because it’s really hard to tell whether or not the person gave permission – and honestly, it usually doesn’t pay off.
Finally, deal with complaints fast, and always follow your ISP’s rules as well as your auto responder’s rules. Additionally, if you deliver quality content it’s unlikely you’ll have any issues following the laws.