Using e-mail to market your business, the right way
By Christina Fiebich, Marketing Director
E-mail is one of the most popular marketing tools for small businesses today. But federal law requires that anyone sending out email for commercial purposes follow some specific rules or risk costly penalties. Unfortunately, each year small businesses unknowingly run afoul of these e-mail marketing regulations.
The CAN-SPAM Act covers business-to-consumer and business-to-business e-mails that advertise or promote a commercial product or service. (CAN-SPAM stands for ‘Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing, by the way!) The penalties for violations of CAN-SPAM can add up: The Federal Trade Commission can seek civil penalties of up to $16,000 per non-compliant e-mail sent.
Luckily, the rules for sending out business e-mails are simple to understand and easy to follow. For starters, the subject line of your e-mail must accurately reflect the content of your message. Your “From,” “To,” and “Reply-To,” information must accurately identify you or your agency as the person or business who initiated the message. You’ll also want to make sure that you disclose clearly that your e-mail is an advertisement.
In the e-mail text, you need to disclose where you’re located. Your e-mail must contain the street address, post office box or private mailbox used by your business. You’ll also need to include in your e-mail information that can be used by an e-mail recipient to easily opt out of getting future e-mails from you. There must be no charge for someone to opt out of your e-mails. Opt-out requests also must be processed within 10 business days. And you may ask only for the recipient’s e-mail address to honor an opt-out request.
The CAN-SPAM Act also addresses how you create and maintain your e-mail list. Don’t ever add people to your email list without their permission. For example, you wouldn’t want to add e-mail addresses from business cards you collect at a business conference unless you have permission from each individual whose card you collected. In addition, you don’t want to share, sell or transfer any e-mail addresses you have collected to another e-mail list.
Lastly, make sure that if you hire an outside company to handle your e-mail marketing that you hire a reputable one. You, along with your e-mail marketing company, may be held legally responsible for any violations of federal law. Want to learn more about CAN-SPAM? Go to this link.