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CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business

17 Jul

Do you use email in your business? The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.

Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $40,654, so non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.
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5 Actual Reasons Why SPAM Email is Dead

10 Jul

There’s a common belief that all email marketing is SPAM email and that promotional emails are clogging our inboxes from marketers competing to stay top of mind.

The thing is, this belief doesn’t really match up to reality. A lot of marketers will say “We really don’t want to SPAM our customers or people in our database”, but this intention seems to get lost in the weeds.

As email users, we’re still convinced that SPAMMY email tactics are still at the heart of email marketing.

Could it be that the overwhelming majority of SPAM email comes from fake websites that don’t compare to the presence of a real company trying to engage with their prospects? Well, maybe.

Here are 5 real, tangible reasons why SPAM email is dead.

SPAM Email Costs Money, A Lot of Money

If there’s a company who wants to email as many people as possible, as often as possible, regardless of how qualified they are, there are a couple assumptions we could make about them:

  • They’re new to email marketing and aren’t familiar with the cost associated with emailing contacts
  • Email reputation is completely foreign to them (more on that later)
  • They’re aware of their email malpractices but don’t give a hoot – this kind of email marketing approach will get shut down by most email service providers (ESPs)

Email marketers want to email as few people as possible per send. Then, over time we evaluate contacts who haven’t been contacted in a while and send them a re-opt-in email.

Once disengaged contacts are identified and don’t re-opt-in, we remove them from my database.

Why would an email marketer want to remove people from their database?

ESPs usually base their price on the number of contacts in a database. When we’re talking about using a HubSpot Pro account with 35,000 contacts we could be paying thousands of dollars per month just for the portal.

Who has that kind of money to invest in communicating with contacts that don’t want to be contacted!?

No way sir, if I send an email to someone and they don’t engage with it, I notice. If that happens multiple times, I remove them from my database. My clients absolutely cannot afford contacts who aren’t opening my emails.

SPAM Email Destroys Reputations

Ever notice how every email in your SPAM folder looks the exact same?

The damage done by SPAMMY practices is difficult to recover from. Campaign Monitor wrote an article about how to approach fixing this damage. For our purposes, the key takeaway is that it’s very, very hard to rectify. A lot of email marketers are employed at agencies where they work with numerous clients and probably don’t have time to go through the process of email reconstruction.

That said, most (if not all) of these marketers aren’t going to engage in SPAMMY tactics because they don’t have the bandwidth to deal with the repercussions.

You Email Service Provider Probably Won’t Let You SPAM

If you’re sending bulk emails you’re probably using an ESP like MailChimp or HubSpot. ESPs like these have strict guidelines in their Terms of Use (see HubSpot’s and MailChimp’s for reference).

Not only is it expensive and time-consuming to send SPAM, but in some (maybe even all) cases it’s impossible to maintain a SPAMMY email strategy.

For some context, let’s talk about why HubSpot and MailChimp care so much about SPAMMY emails.

When you send an email through HubSpot or MailChimp you’re sending it from their server. Emails that are sent from their server are going to contribute to their email reputation. These two ESPs can probably say that using their services will help you get into your contact’s inbox because they have a solid reputation.

They have an economic incentive to remove any SPAMMERS who are hurting their email reputation. So if you SPAM through these ESPs your account will get frozen and likely removed.

There is No Revenue in SPAM

It’s pretty hard to see when your emails are not being delivered. Email clients aren’t required to share where an email was delivered (for example the inbox or SPAM folder).

The only way to tell if email sends are regularly getting filtered into the SPAM folder is by watching email deliverability metrics. If you see that your email metrics are steadily declining, then you’re probably experiencing some inbox placement issues which could be due to SPAMMY email practices like buying lists.

The thing is, this kind of trend will be database wide. Meaning even email addresses that you gathered from organic opt-in measures will probably filter messages to the SPAM folder. This results in fewer opens, and even fewer clicks, which means less traffic to a website.

Email marketers know this. They also know that these email deliverability metrics are used to determine the profitability of email.

Bad email metrics mean diminishing revenue from email. Diminishing revenue from email can put a marketer in a tough spot requiring them to defend their employment. Which takes us to reason 5.

Email Marketers are Paid to Market, Not SPAM

At its core, email marketing is about nurturing and qualifying leads. In this process, we inform newly converted contacts about ways to satisfy their needs.

We’ll use information gathered from form submissions to segments contacts into lists where important traits are grouped together. Then, we’ll use these lists to send emails that contain content relevant to the contacts based on the important traits upon which the lists are generated.

Over time, we’ll introduce them to new content offers or events. Our central goal is to send qualified leads to sales and disqualified leads to a suppression list.

This process keeps our sales funnel clean and occupied by engaged, qualified contacts. This makes leadership teams happy and ensures sustainable employment for sales and email marketing teams. Hooray.

Email lists aren’t purchased and segmentation is based on voluntary information gathered from contacts.

SPAM tactics lead to needlessly stressful work environments. Some of the best email marketers will establish a double opt-in process for all email addresses. This can result in ~40% open rates on emails …talk about a happy marketing and leadership team.

If you’re very concerned about getting SPAMMED from companies, or how SPAMMY your approach to marketing is, I would encourage you to consider how dead SPAM email actually is.

Smart Ways to Grow Your Email Marketing List

23 Jan

There’s a lot of hype surrounding new marketing strategies like social media and mobile applications. But having a strong email list is still a must for small businesses. If you’re looking to grow your subscriber base in 2017, here are 50 ways you can grow your small business email list.

How to Grow Your Email List

Include a Sign Up Form on Your Website

To get people to sign up for your email list online, you need to make sure you have a working sign up form displayed prominently on your website. The form should include a description of what people will get by signing up, along with any other information you require from them.

Offer an Incentive

It’s also essential that you tell people what’s in it for them. Don’t just say you’ll send regular updates or offers. Tell people if they’ll get discounts or free content or other helpful resources.

Be Clear About Your Offerings

You should also be very specific about what you plan on sending and how often. If people aren’t sure about what they’re signing up for, then they aren’t likely to sign up at all.

Reassure Subscribers About Spam

People also want to know that they aren’t going to receive a bunch of spam. So along with your signup forms, tell people that you won’t spam them or sell their email addresses to any third parties.

Create a Free Download

To get people to sign up, you can also create exclusive items that they can download for free just by signing up. This might include forms, worksheets or other downloadable resources.

Write an eBook

If you want to really entice more signups, you can write an ebook and offer it for free for anyone who signs up for your email list.

Include Testimonials

To show people how helpful your email list can be, you can include a testimonial on your landing page or sidebar from someone who found it to be a great resource.

Have a Sign-up Sheet

You don’t have to only collect email addresses online. You can also include a sign up sheet in your store or physical location for people who want to sign up.

Request Emails During In-person Sales

You can also go out of your way to get people to sign up for your list simply by asking people who are making purchases if they’d like to leave their email addresses.

Reward Sign-ups

You can also offer a one-time reward for people who sign up, like an exclusive coupon code that they can use within the first year.

Include a Link on Your Business Cards

You can also use your business cards as a way of letting potential subscribers know about the benefits of signing up for your email list. Just include a link and some information on the back.

Start a Club

For local businesses or those who want to grow customers through events, you can start a club and use your email list as a way of distributing relevant information.

Have a Name for Subscribers

Even if you don’t have the capacity to start a club, you can make your email list seem like an exclusive club by having a specific name for the group or encouraging interaction in some way, like through social media hashtags.

Host a Giveaway

A contest or giveaway can also be a great incentive to encourage sign-ups. Just ask people to leave their email addresses as a way of entering.

Sponsor a Giveaway on Another Site

You can also increase your reach even more by sponsoring a giveaway on another website or with another business.

Invite People to an Event

If you have an idea for a one-time event that might interest some potential subscribers, you can ask people to sign up in exchange for a ticket or event information.

Provide Helpful Online Content

If you want to show people that you can provide them with great content via email, then you need to first show them that you can create great content in general. That means you can start a blog, YouTube channel or other content strategy to showcase what you have to offer.

Create Content Upgrades

Once you create great content, you can add extras like worksheets or additional information that people can only get if they sign up for your email list.

Have a Password Protected Part of Your Website

Or you could create a whole section of your website that’s password protected, and then only offer access to that section to your email subscribers.

Start an Online Community

You might even consider adding a community feature like a forum or even a Facebook group and granting access to those who sign up.

Cross-promote with Other Businesses

You can also connect with other relevant businesses or industry experts and promote their email list with your subscribers and have them do the same for you.

Encourage Email Sharing

Your subscribers can also be a great help in promoting your email list. Ask them to share their experience on social media or share their favorite emails with their contacts.

Visit Trade Shows

If you promote your business at trade shows or other events, include a sign-up sheet or contest that people can enter by signing up for your list.

Collect Emails from Mobile App Users

Or if you want to create your own mobile app, you can offer it for free to those who sign up for your list.

Have an Opt-in on Order Pages

When people make purchases on your website, you can create an option that lets them opt-in while completing their order.

Make Order Confirmations Work for You

Once people have already completed their orders, you can send them a confirmation email that also includes an easy way to sign up in case anyone missed the form on your website.

Include Email Requests with New Orders

Or you can include a sign-up card with the actual package you send out with purchases so people can sign up if they’re happy with the experience.

Include a Sign-up Link in Your Signature

Your everyday emails can also provide opportunities for more email subscribers. You can include a simple sign-up link in your signature for those who are interested.

Add it to Your Social Profiles

You can also include a sign-up link in your social media profiles along with a quick description or incentive for signing up.

Join a Networking Group

If you want to appeal to other professionals in your area or industry, you can join a networking group to meet relevant contacts.

Offer a Free Service

For service-based businesses, you can offer a free consultation or simple service in exchange for people signing up.

Speak at an Event

To share your expertise and show people the kind of information they might get by signing up for your list, you can speak at industry conferences or events.

Give Away Regular Downloads

Free downloads can be great one-time incentives. But you can also attract new subscribers by offering freebies on a regular basis and publicizing them.

Preview New Offers on Social Media

Each time you create a new offering or exciting piece of content, make sure you offer a preview on social media so that your followers can see what they might be missing if they aren’t already signed up.

Create Separate Opt-ins

If you offer a variety of different content to subscribers, some people might not want to sign up because they don’t want to receive all of that different content. But if you separate it into more specific lists, like one just for discount offers and one for curated content, you might attract more sign-ups.

Have QR Codes on Signage

On any signage or print materials, you can make it really easy for people to sign up for your list by scanning a QR code with their smartphones or mobile devices.

Add a Call to Action on Facebook

Facebook also makes it really easy for you to add a call to action to your page. So you can make your call to action the ability to sign up for your email list.

Publish Offers on LinkedIn

If you have content that includes upgrades or requires a password, you can share the link on LinkedIn to increase visibility and gain subscribers from that platform.

Promote Exclusive Content on Pinterest

On Pinterest, you can also share any visually appealing content that includes a link to sign up for your list.

Share Your Expertise on YouTube

Or if you create YouTube videos, you can include calls to action that encourage people to subscribe.

Mention Relevant Influencers on Twitter

On Twitter, you can tag relevant brands or influencers when talking about your emails to increase visibility.

Include Calls to Action on Blog Posts

If you blog for your business, you can also include calls to action at the bottom of each post to encourage more sign-ups.

Partner with Influencers

To increase visibility for your business among relevant consumers, you can partner with influencers and then direct new visitors to a landing page with your sign-up form.

Host a Webinar

If you have relevant expertise to share, you can also host a webinar and allow people to sign up for free by leaving their email address.

Ask for Sign-ups from Direct Mail

If you have a direct mail list, you can ask those people to go paperless by signing up for your email list instead.

Request Emails on Sales Calls

And when you or your team speak with customers or prospects during sales calls, you can also collect emails or encourage people to sign up.

Include Social Sharing Buttons

You can also encourage people to share your emails or any other content you might offer by including social sharing buttons that make it really easy for them to send your content to others via email or social media.

Ask for Help from Employees

Your employees also might be able to help you spread the word by promoting your list with their own contacts.

Consider a Pop-up

Though pop-up windows might be annoying, they have shown to be effective for promoting email lists on websites. So it could be worth considering.

Create Great Email Content

And finally, if you want to get more email sign-ups, you need to share great content via email. Whether that’s discounts, information, downloads or other types of content, you need to make sure it actually lives up to the hype.