The dreaded CAN-SPAM complaint. If your business is charged under the American CAN-SPAM act, you may face fines up to $16,000 and even imprisonment in extreme cases. It will hurt your sending reputation and your customer loyalty. Your email provider may temporarily disable or permanently close your sender account. (*CASL is Canada's Anti-Spam Law. If you are sending email marketing campaigns to or within Canada, please see "Can You Explain CASL?" for more information on CASL.)
Many email marketers have criticized the CAN-SPAM act for not being strict enough. You may think this is a reason to not take it too seriously. Here's why you should follow anti-spam regulations: it truly only hurts your business to send out unsolicited emails (and/or text messages). You will not gain any benefits from sending messages to people who don't want them.
How do you react to an unwanted email that shows up in your inbox? Are you likely to open it? Most people will simply delete it. If you do open it, are you likely to read the content? Most people will not read the content. Are you likely to purchase something from the email that you did not ask to receive? Most people will not even consider clicking through and purchasing anything advertised in a spam email, as it is very dangerous to give out your credit card information to a business you don't even know. Some people will even take the extra step of filing a CAN-SPAM complaint if they receive an unwanted email.
Unsolicited emails have an extremely low conversion rate. It is not worth spending money to send them. It is not worth dealing with the hassles, complaints and potential fines associated with sending unsolicited emails. Whether or not you believe the CAN-SPAM regulations are strict enough, you should always be following CAN-SPAM best marketing practices to help keep your customers satisfied and loyal.
First things first: let's talk about how to avoid getting a CAN-SPAM complaint. Preventing a problem from happening is always better than dealing with the consequences.
Only Use Opt-In Email Addresses
Don't harvest emails. Don't buy email lists. Don't send to any email addresses of anyone who has not willingly opted in to receive your emails. This strategy, hands down, is the most effective way to avoid a CAN-SPAM complaint altogether. Clean your email address lists regularly to weed out inactive subscribers and avoid spam traps. Regular list maintenance enables you to keep your email list up to date so you will not send to old or unsubscribed email addresses.
Save Opt-In Data
Save all your opt-in data so you can prove that your subscribers opted in to receive your emails. If you are ever asked to produce proof of opt-in, you will have it readily available. If a legitimate subscriber makes a complaint, proving they opted in will help you avoid penalties.
Follow CAN-SPAM Best Practices Sending
Don't include spammy content in your email itself. Your subject line should accurately describe the content that is in your email. The subject line should not contain spam trigger words such as money, buy now, guarantee and so on. Identify the message as an advertisement. Your contact information should be accurate. Your "From" name should be your business or a well-known employee in your business. You also need to have a valid postal address or street address for your business.
Make the Unsubscribe Process Simple
Provide a simple unsubscribe link in every email you send. The link should immediately unsubscribe the person, or should take them to a page where they are asked to confirm their opt-out once. Make it as quick and simple as possible. This keeps people happy and avoids frustration and possible spam complaints. You are not allowed to charge people for unsubscribing and you can't ask them for any information besides their email address and, optionally, the reason they no longer want to receive your emails. You are not allowed to sell or transfer the email addresses of people who have unsubscribed.
Honor Opt-Outs as Soon as Possible
When a subscriber decides they no longer want to receive your emails, honor their opt-out request promptly. CAN-SPAM states that an unsubscribe mechanism in an email must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after the email is sent. Once a subscriber does opt out, you must honor their request within 10 business days. After that, you can't send them any more emails (unless they subscribe again).
Dealing with a CAN-SPAM Complaint
Now that we've covered the basics of how to avoid CAN-SPAM complaints, we will address how to move forward if you do get one.
Handle Complaints Before They Escalate
Even the best email marketer has to deal with occasional complaints. If someone takes the time to complain to you, address their concerns immediately. It may mean the difference between a simple response and months of legal investigation and penalties. Immediately remove their email address from your sending list and apologize for the confusion. If complaints are a common issue, review all your email marketing campaigns to learn the cause of the complaints. As mentioned, regular list cleaning is essential and helps you avoid complaints.
Deal with Legal Action
The Federal Trade Commission investigates CAN-SPAM complaints. If they deem it to be serious, they will enforce whatever penalties they see fit, depending on the nature and severity of the violation. It may takes multiple complaints against a business before the FTC will intervene. You may face legal action if you are in violation of CAN-SPAM.
Get CAN-SPAM Compliant
Once you have paid your fine and/or dealt with your other penalties, it's time to review all your email marketing techniques and campaigns. You need to ensure that every message you are sending follows CAN-SPAM's requirements. To avoid further fines and penalties, review CAN-SPAM's regulations and update any areas of your email marketing that do not comply.
Always Follow CAN-SPAM Best Practices
As previously mentioned, the best way to deal with complaints is to avoid getting them. The best way to avoid getting complaints is to always, always follow email marketing and CAN-SPAM best practices. The list of CAN-SPAM best practices above is basic. Research CAN-SPAM best practices and ensure that your email marketing campaigns are following them. Use a blocklist monitoring service to ensure that your IP address is not on any blocklists, which will hurt your deliverability. Learn more about following CAN-SPAM best practices and avoiding getting blocklisted: "Your Questions Answered: How Can I Mass Email Without Getting Blocklisted?"
Automate Your Email Marketing
Use an automated email marketing solution that helps you maintain CAN-SPAM compliance. SimplyCast's solution ensures that you are CAN-SPAM compliant. Each email message you send using our software passes through a series of checks to make sure that it does not violate spam laws or email marketing and CAN-SPAM best practices.
SimplyCast has an excellent sender reputation and our email marketing solution helps ensure that you are following best practices and regulations. Sign up for a free 14-day trial.