If you missed part one of the blog, visit Optizmo's blog.
One important factor to improve email deliverability and performance of any long-term email marketing program is maintaining compliance with relevant rules and regulations. This typically involves adhering to relevant data privacy and marketing-related laws along with any email-specific rules that may be in place in your geographic region.
In the U.S., the key regulation focused on email marketing comes from The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM). The law, which has been regularly reevaluated and updated in the years since its inception, defines a set of rules for email marketers in the U.S. to follow to protect consumers.
Fortunately for marketers, the rules are fairly straightforward and, even more importantly, they can definitely be incorporated into a successful email marketing program. This is easily demonstrated by the constant growth and continued performance of the email channel over the last 18 years since CAN-SPAM came into being.
Below are some tips to help you understand some of the key aspects of CAN-SPAM and how compliance with them can be attained through using many existing email marketing best practices.
What are some common compliance issues?
- Using deceptive subject lines
- Failing to collect or honor opt-out requests in a timely manner
- Not clearly identifying the message as an advertisement
- Issues with affiliates not following the rules
Tips for Running a Compliant Email Marketing Program
Running a compliant email marketing program doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. Most of the elements of compliance with CAN-SPAM are good email marketing best practices that any marketer should follow. Below is a list of basic best practices that address the main elements of CAN-SPAM compliance.
Provide clear and accurate header information (From, To, and Reply-To)
A significant aspect of complying with CAN-SPAM is simply providing honest and accurate information about where the email comes from. This is absolutely a best practice for email marketers. The intent is to let recipients know who is sending each email that reaches their inbox. Obscuring this information is likely to confuse a recipient, leading to a negative user experience and a compliance issue.
Never use deceptive subject lines
This really ties CAN-SPAM compliance to other marketing laws in the U.S. that focus on not being deceptive toward consumers. In this case, the email subject line shouldn’t deceive or confuse the recipient about the content of the email in order to get them to open it in the first place.
Deception is also a terrible strategy to employ for any marketer interested in driving long-term success for the email program and the business overall. So, this is another case where email marketing best practices also line up with CAN-SPAM compliance.
Identify the message as an advertisement
Another aspect of not being deceptive is making sure the recipients can easily identify that the email has a marketing or advertising purpose. Practices like making a promotional email look like an invoice or important customer notice are likely to be non-compliant and again deliver a bad customer experience. This doesn’t preclude marketers from being incredibly creative and clever in their email copy. It just should be easy for the recipient to identify the email as a marketing message.
Include a valid physical address for the sender
This helps the consumer by giving them additional contact information for the sender to help them identify your email marketing campaigns as legitimate.
The last thing any marketer wants is for recipients to think that an email looks questionable, making them even less likely to engage or respond. This is just another way to not only be compliant but to also give your recipients confidence in the company and the offers you’re sending to their inboxes.
Provide an easy way for recipients to opt-out of future email
The opt-out mechanism is arguably the most important aspect of CAN-SPAM, as it gives recipients an easy way to request that the sender stop sending them emails in the future.
Today, this is generally through the inclusion of an opt-out link in every marketing email, which then takes the consumer either to an opt-out confirmation page or to a preference center page. Here recipients can manage their email subscriptions. Beyond CAN-SPAM, this is a requirement in many email marketing laws around the globe.
Making this process easy is another basic email marketing best practice that is in everyone’s best interest (the recipient and the sender). Marketers don’t really want to keep sending emails to recipients who will never respond because they have no interest in the offer. Removing these actively uninterested recipients from a list will generally lead to higher open and click response rates and make it easier to identify responsive recipients in the future.
Honor all opt-out requests within 10 business days
Once a recipient has opted out, the request must be processed and honored within 10 business days of receipt, under CAN-SPAM. So, an email sender may continue to send emails to that address up until the 10 business day timeframe. However, many marketers will process and honor opt-out requests more or less immediately upon receipt and processing.
In most cases, there isn’t a great benefit in continuing to email a recipient who has opted out, even if you can continue sending them emails until the 10 business day limit. It can actually lead to spam complaints or simply a very negative perception of the company, as most recipients don’t know the specifics of CAN-SPAM.
They only know they requested to be removed from future mailings. It is a general best practice to remove recipients upon receipt of an opt-out request unless there is a very specific compelling reason to message them again before the 10 business day time limit.
Regularly monitor your email partners for their compliance and adherence to industry best practices
Any time an advertiser uses third parties (affiliates, performance agencies, etc.) to send marketing email campaigns on their behalf, the advertiser does carry responsibility for the actions of those third parties.
In the case of CAN-SPAM compliance, the advertiser can be held responsible if a third party sends out any campaigns that are in violation of any of these guidelines or any other aspect of CAN-SPAM. It is vital that advertisers who use third parties have a process in place to best ensure compliance and also monitor for any potential infractions.
Fortunately, there are a variety of available tools, products, services, and processes that can streamline this monitoring program. These allow a huge number of brands and companies of all sizes to leverage email as a part of their affiliate marketing programs, so dramatically grow their businesses.
- Develop a process for vetting affiliates and email marketing partners
One of the best ways to ensure your email marketing partners are compliant is to develop a vetting process when adding new partners to your programs. These vetting processes can come in many variations to best meet each advertiser’s needs.
This can involve things like a qualification or screening process for all new partners and an introductory period where very close monitoring is undertaken to ensure a new partner has their own internal processes set up to ensure compliance.
Remember that these partners are acting on your behalf, so you want to make sure you are comfortable with not only their performance but also their adherence to the rules.
Leverage industry-leading compliance solution providers
As mentioned above, there are numerous service providers in the email marketing industry that can help make compliance with CAN-SPAM a streamlined and straightforward process. Whether you need an opt-out process and suppression list management, or partner monitoring, you can work with established companies that can take the heavy lifting off your plate when it comes to managing and automating many of the moving pieces involved in CAN-SPAM compliance.
Nothing in this article should be taken as professional legal advice. We strongly recommend obtaining professional legal advice with regards to the details of compliance with any law or regulation.
Read part one of the article, 9 Best Practices for Email Deliverability and Compliance on Optizmo’s blog.
Meet the Author
Tom Wozniak is the head of Marketing and PR for OPTIZMO Technologies, delivering the industry’s most powerful platform for email compliance and suppression list management to clients throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Tom has over 20 years of experience in email, affiliate, and various other digital marketing channels. Prior to OPTIZMO, he was VP of Marketing at SpotX, headed up marketing at Media Breakaway, and held senior leadership roles with Trueffect and NextAction, among other companies. He regularly writes for several industry publications and speaks at various affiliate and email marketing industry events.