$.02 on CAN-SPAM

President Bush signed the CAN-SPAM Act into law December 2003. A year and a half later, there is still much misunderstanding about what the law means and how it applies to Joe Email Marketer.

In my previous life as a Bronto salesperson, it was not uncommon to have a prospect ask if Bronto is CAN-SPAM compliant. The answer is of course "yes" - but with a catch. Your messages have to be "compliant" - the email marketing software provider just makes you compliant. I always responded to prospects with these questions by assuring them that Bronto's account management services, policies and product functionality will take care of them automatically and that, as long as they maintain good practices, CAN-SPAM shouldn't even be on their radar screen.

Last week, I addressed a (rather reactionary and unfounded) email complaint from a customer's contact threatening legal action against our customer under the CAN-SPAM Act. The complaint came from a previous (and recent) customer on the site that had opted-in to receive email marketing communications. No laws broken - just someone that wants to stop receiving emails from this company. Flaming opt-outs such as this only heighten email marketers' sensitivity to CAN-SPAM repercussions, no matter how unlikely they are.

Just this week, I spoke with someone that said they're not interested in getting into commercial email because they're "worried about the CAN-SPAM requirements". I emphasized to them that the "compliance" bar is actually quite low - don't use misleading subject lines, don't misrepresent email headers, provide an opt-out, and include your postal address in the message. (Translation - just don't send spam!)

CAN-SPAM is all about stopping spammers. (By the way, permission-based email marketing communications - meaning communications to customers, prospects, donors, etc. that have requested them - is not spam.) If you're not sending spam, then you have no cause for worry. Maintain good practices, use a reputable email marketing provider, and honor unsubscribe requests and you'll be fine.