6 Step CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide

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Email can be a powerful tool, and a digital marketers best friend when it comes to promoting and dispersing information about your business, but it can also get you in a spot of bother if you don’t follow some simple but very important guidelines.

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) is a US law that sets the framework and rules for sending commercial email content and outlines penalties for those who do not follow the law.

The guidelines are aimed at emails that are commercial in nature, as opposed to transactional or relationship emails. In other words: emails that are designed to advertise.

The penalties for not obeying CAN-SPAM can be severe, with each separate email being liable to a fine of up to $16,000 – so you better get your head around what it takes to comply.

So, what exactly do you have to do to ensure you don’t fall foul of CAN-SPAM? We’ve put together a simple 6-point compliance guide so you don’t have to fear the worst when sending out email:

1. Don’t use misleading ‘to’, ‘from’ and ‘reply-to’ information:

This information must be accurate. No ifs and buts. In particular, these items must identify the person or business that initiated the message.

2. The subject must not mislead the recipient.

Self-explanatory. The subject must accurately reflect the content of the email. In other words don’t have ‘FREE DONUTS’ as a subject when your email is actually talking about all the great lawn mowers your business sells.

3. Identify the email as an ad

There are a few different ways you can do this, but what is important is that you clearly and conspicuously state that the message is an advertisement. Just don’t dress it up as a public service announcement…

4. Tell recipients where you’re located

Your email MUST include a postal address. It doesn’t matter if it’s a street address or a post office box; it just needs to be in there.

5. Let your recipients know how to opt our of receiving future emails 

Every element of CAN-SPAM compliance is important, but this is probably THE single most important part, because if you get this wrong you’ll annoy A LOT of people.

Your email must clearly show the recipient a way to opt out of receiving future marketing emails from you. That can either be a return email address where they simply write ‘unsubscribe’ to let you know that they want to opt out, or some other way that they can communicate to you that they want to opt out. That can be a menu, button or an unsubscribe page.

Best practice is to also include an email preference centre link where subscribers can change their subscription settings and decide which emails they want to keep on receiving.

6. Act on opt-out requests quickly

CAN-SPAM stipulates that you must honour opt-out requests within ten business days of receiving the request. There is a further requirement that the opt-out process (that we spoke about in point 5) must be functional for at least 30 days after the email is sent. Don’t let your subscribers have to tell you twice!

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6 Step CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide

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