DIY Marketers: How Do Spam Laws Relate to SMS and Email Marketing?

Original article appeared on DIY Marketers blog.

Spam Law Compliance: What You Can Do to Safeguard Yourself

With each passing year, governments are becoming more and more restrictive about unsolicited email. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is a spam law that established the United States? national standards for sending commercial email by defining commercial email messages (distinct from transactional or relationship email) and providing guidelines for sending behavior, content and unsubscribe compliance. Hopefully you are familiar with these guidelines and know you must include a visible and operational unsubscribe option in your commercial emails, a legitimate physical address of the company, accurate From? information and subject lines and you cannot send to harvested email addresses.

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Global SPAM Laws

In an increasingly global marketplace, however, it is important to be aware of and to comply with?the spam laws of other countries, as well. Many of these laws have provisions that state they apply not only to companies that are located in the country?s jurisdiction, but also to any entity sending email to that country?s citizens. Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), which was enacted in 2014, requires that marketers send email only to people who have opted in to receive them and threatens millions of dollars in fines for violations. Though CASL has only begun to bare its teeth (the “transitional period” ends July 1, 2017), it is just the beginning of stronger anti-spam legislation.

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The European Union Parliament is expected to approve a comprehensive piece of privacy legislation in the coming months known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This overhaul of the EU Data Protection Directive is expected to become law across all 28 EU Member States in 2018 and contains very specific requirements about obtaining consent to collect an individual’s information, as well as guidelines about how that information is to be stored and used.

Tips for Staying Inside the SPAM Law

Making sure you meet (or exceed) the requirements of these laws is actually not that difficult if you follow these email best practices:

  • Never buy a list. While it may seem like a tactic to build your reach quickly, purchasing or harvesting email addresses can backfire in a number of ways. To begin with, 22.5 percent of email addresses expire each year. Furthermore, sending to inactive or otherwise bad email addresses can hurt your send reputation and potentially cause you to be flagged or even blacklisted.
  • Practice double-opt in list growth. Not only are double opt-in lists compliant with international spam laws, they can also help boost your open rates. MailChimp tested single- and double-opt in lists to see which method produced the most engaged email recipients and found that the double opt-in method produced a 72 percent increase in unique opens and a 114 percent increase in clicks compared to those on single opt-in lists.
  • Use relevant from? names and subject lines. According to data provided by Convince & Convert, 43 percent of email recipients say that they will report email as spam based on the from? name or email address and 69 percent say that they will report email as spam based solely on the subject line. Bottom line? Be clear about who you are and what the email you are sending is about. It’s the best way to keep and engage the individuals you have worked so hard to get to join your list in the first place.[Tweet “Great tips on how to stay SPAM Law compliant SPAM LAW TIP: include a visible and operational unsubscribe option in your commercial emails via @EmailOnAcid”]
  • Provide an unsubscribe link in every campaign. This element should be fairly self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised at how often this link is forgotten or broken in email campaigns. Once someone clicks on that link, you can obtain a little more information about why the individual is unsubscribing through a preference center, but be sure to make the process easy and to remove them from your list in a timely manner (within 10 business days is required in the United States).
  • Maintain your list over time. Data maintenance is a key component of CASL and GDPR. Individuals must provide either express or implied consent for the use of their information (and a pre-filled checkbox does not imply valid consent). Companies should also keep a record of where and how consent was given. Finally, with CASL implied consent has an expiration date of approximately two years. And, with GDPR, an individual has the ?right to be forgotten? if their data is no longer being used for the purpose under which it was originally collected.

You Can Do It

Though these requirements might feel overwhelming at first, developing an email program that relies on industry best practices will certainly pay off in the long run. Email marketing should be about the quality of your contacts, not the quantity. A more engaged list leads to better overall performance of the campaigns you send and better long term results for your brand and bottom line.