Small businesses and startups may not be aware of the CAN-SPAM Act, a 2003 United States law that regulates how companies use email to contact their customers. Due to a massive amount of email spam, congress passed the landmark law that limits what you can send without a customer’s permission. Read on to understand how the law impacts your business and what you have to do to remain in compliance.
Ignorance is Not an Excuse
Before we get into the details of the law, it is important to understand how this and other laws impact your business. You have to follow the law no matter what. You can’t plead ignorance as an excuse for not following the CAN-SPAM Act. Just like filing your taxes, the government expects you to follow this regulation without any reminders or government intervention. If you don’t, you face fines and penalties that are completely avoidable.
You Must Provide an Opt-Out Method
If you maintain an email list, you must offer a method for users to unsubscribe within a couple of clicks. That can be through a link included in the email, a form on your website, or an email reply. As long as you offer one of these methods and follow through, you are compliant with the law.
In a recent discussion on Facebook, I came across someone who believed you had to offer all of these methods. That is not correct. You can offer multiple methods, but only have to offer one. As long as that one method is compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act, you’re good to go. Someone thought that if you got an email back from a subscriber that you had to remove them manually. That is not the case if your official opt-out method is a link at the bottom of each email, you don’t have to manually unsubscribe people. Kindly pointing them to the link at the bottom of each message is fine under the law.
You Must Comply with Out-Out Requests
You would think this goes without saying, but I have come across way too many companies big and small that continue to send messages after I have submitted the opt-out request.
Whatever opt-out method you use, remove users from the list when they ask to be removed. If they don’t want your emails and you keep sending, they may hit the spam button. If they do, it can hamper your emails to all users, not just that one. If you use an automated email service like ConvertKit, MailChimp, or Aweber, this feature is built in and automatic. Removing users also helps keep you from moving up to the next price tier, which can save you a few bucks every month on your email service.
Emails Must Contain a Physical Contact Address
At the bottom of each email to your list, you must include an email address where users can contact you by snail mail. While I have never had a user send me anything my physical mail, I include a PO box address at the bottom of each message.
If you have a business address, you can use that. To protect my privacy and my family’s privacy, I use a PO box at a local post office that I share with my in-law’s business. That saves us both money, protects our personal privacy, and keeps me in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act.
Follow the Golden Rule
Treat others how you want to be treated. That rule applies in life, business, and email marketing. When you get an email from a startup, a small business, or a giant Fortune 500 company, you want the ability to quickly and easily remove yourself and you want them to respect your wishes.
If you follow that guideline, you are complaint with the law. If you are worried, using a big email service provider rather than a manual list ensures you are covered. They can also save you a ton of time and improve deliverability for your emails.
If you are in email marketing in the United States, CAN-SPAM isn’t optional. But it isn’t too difficult either. Just take the steps to ensure your users have a great experience and you have little to worry about.