Emailing Customers Without Spam (Unless it’s on the Menu)

Email marketing is a fantastic way to build your business and your brand.  You can reach out directly to the people you want and let them know about your business.

When email marketing, there are several legal and practical things to consider.  From a legal standpoint, the first thing most people think of when it comes to emails is the CAN-SPAM Act.  It sets rules for commercial email messages.  And failing to comply can result in penalties of up to $40,654 for each message sent.

Fortunately for businesses, it is simple to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.  The main requirements are

  1. Don’t use a false or misleading header
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  3. Identify the message as an ad
  4. Tell recipients your physical address
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out
  6. Honor opt outs promptly
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf

Following one and two are easy.  Just don’t lie.  If a restaurant has a $14.95 lobster special for the month of August, they can just say it.  Regardless of the law, lying about something like that would just disappoint customers anyway when they walk in and there is no lobster to be had.

Number seven is also simple and easily solved by good management practices.  It is fine to delegate, but never turn a blind eye.  Just because someone else violated the rules does not let the business off the hook.

Failing to comply can result in penalties of up to $40,654 for each message sent.

While most major email clients can set up a mailing list, managing opt-outs can be a pain.  It tends to be simpler to use a service specializing in bulk email and mailing lists.  The major brands all help with CAN-SPAM compliance.  And some will allow users to send thousands of emails per month for free.  Not to mention that most have valuable tracking tools to see if ads are working.

These mail tools usually have their own rules that are generally a bit stricter than the CAN-SPAM Act.  But they have these rules for a reason.  They are designed to keep users off the dreaded Spam Blacklist.  Users who end up on the Blacklist are flagged by virtually all spam filters—so their emails never get to anyone anymore.

Read the specific rules of any tool you use.  But in general the rules focus around requiring opt-in emails.  Opt-in emailing is a separate concept from opt-out rules. The opt-out rules still apply—people can quit your list whenever they want.  But for opt-in lists, people have to request to be on your list.  It can’t just be random people.

It may sound difficult, but there are many simple ways to collect opt-in emails like birthday clubs or sending a $5 coupon when people sign up for the mailing list.  Opt-in lists tend to be better and more useful than lists of random people because they are filled with people who already have a genuine interest in the business they are receiving mail from.

Finally, make sure the content you send out is something that people get excited about.  Who doesn’t get hungry when they see today’s special just before lunchtime at a fantastic price?

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