A Quick Run Down of the CAN-SPAM Act for Emails

The CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t just regulate bulk emails; it covers all commercial messages with a primary purpose of advertising or promotion.

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It can be tempting when you have one of those “AHA!” moments to quickly send out an email with your brilliant promotional idea to all your customers.  In fact, there are many automated email systems available to make it easy to do just that.  However, since the introduction of email, consumers have become inundated with messages–some spam, some misleading, and a lot of it garbage.  As a result, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) set forth rules for commercial email you need to follow for much of your communications with your customers and other businesses.  The rules are known as the CAN-SPAM Act.

CAN-SPAM ActWhich messages does the CAN-SPAM Act regulate?

Contrary to popular belief, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t just regulate bulk emails; it covers all commercial messages, defined as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.”  The recipients may be general consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B).

The FTC defines three different types of primary purposes an email may have.  While most emails will include content from multiple categories, it is the primary purpose that determines if the email falls within the Act.   

  1. Commercial content:  advertises or promotes a commercial product or service, including content on a website operated for a commercial purpose;
  2. Transactional or relationship content:  facilitates an already agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer about an ongoing transaction; and
  3. Other content:  communication that is neither commercial nor transactional or relationship.

What are the CAN-SPAM Act rules for commercial emails?

Following the regulation is essential because the FTC can impose penalties of up to $46,517 for non-compliance.  Here’s a quick summary of the rules:

  1. The “From,” “To,” and Reply-To” information must clearly indicate who sent and received the message.
  2. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. The email must disclose it is an advertisement.
  4. Your location must be listed.  This can be a physical address or a registered U.S. Postal Service box.
  5. It must include a way to opt-out from future emails.
  6. Opt-out requests must be handled promptly and without fees or hurdles.
  7. Hiring a third party to manage your emails doesn’t release you from compliance responsibilities.

Aside from being compliant, how can you make your emails more effective?

Meeting legal requirements is foundational, but ideally, your email communication should effectively get your message across to your customers.  

  1. Keep your message simple.  Do not put every thought into one email.  Instead, focus on one to three topics to include in an email or emailed newsletter.  Use headers so your reader understands the main points quickly and can choose to read for further detail.
  2. Use simple communication.  Email readers are more likely to digest information in short sentences with relatively simple vocabulary.  Sophisticated language won’t add to the value of electronic communications.
  3. Don’t buy email lists.  Most people disregard emails from unsolicited senders.  When a big chunk of your recipients sends your emails straight to the trash, email programs begin to tag your emails as spam.
  4. Include an easy way for the consumer to take action.  The recipient should be able to click a link or quickly identify how to contact your business for the next step.
  5. Make them relevant.  Use the subject line clearly, and only send email content relevant to your customers’ needs.  Sending an email every day to check a box isn’t helpful.  By sending relevant content, your customers will start to look for your emails.

Remove stress by hiring a marketing professional to manage your email communications.

One of the best ways to remain compliant and increase the effectiveness of your email marketing communications is to hire a professional marketing agency like Paradux Media Group to manage it for you.  Paradux Media Group knows how to get your important messages to your customers so you can focus on running your business.  We’ll help you create promotional campaigns to increase foot traffic to your website or physical location and increase sales for your company.  Contact us today to learn more about all the advertising services we offer.

Angela Peacor

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