In talking with peers, I’ve realized that small business owners might not know the laws surrounding emailing newsletters and promotional information. If a business has a lot of readers mark their emails as spam, they run the risk of being blacklisted.
Governed by the FTC, here’s a summary of what the law says:
- Make it clear who you are.
- Make it clear that the email is a sales pitch or ad.
- Your mailing address must be in the email.
- Always have an opt-out or unsubscribe link.
- Handle unsubscribe requests within 10 business days.
“A blacklist is a list of email addresses or domains that are prevented from sending messages to email users. A blacklist can be created by an email provider or by an email user. When an email address is added to this list, any messages that are sent by it will be disregarded. The email will not be delivered to the inbox and it will be deleted. In some cases, the email is bounced back to the sender and the sender is given a message that the email was not delivered.” (excerpt from Luke Arthur’s blog)
In my mind, the best ways to avoid becoming spam is to do the following:
- Choose an “opt-in” approach to online marketing materials (newsletters, blogs, event alerts). That means, ask people’s permission first, then send them sales material.
If you use an “opt-out” method it means you just send information to people you meet or know regardless of whether they want it or not. If they don’t want the messages, they need to unsubscribe. Personally, I don’t like this approach and feel this opens you up to being marked as junk or spam.
- Always send quality messages. Make sure the reader knows what’s in it for them. If they think your messages are junk, they are more likely to unsubscribe, or worse yet, mark you as spam.
- If someone asks you to remove them from your list, do it immediately. If you don’t have an email service that handles the unsubscribe electronically, you run the risk of forgetting and then upsetting the end reader.
- Use an email service for professional messages. I prefer Mail Chimp since they have free accounts for small businesses. Constant Contact is obviously popular also.
As a marketing specialist, I feel strongly about sending quality promotional messages. I’ve had several people add me to their email lists after casually meeting them at a networking event. I find this unprofessional. My suggestion would be to send a friendly message through LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook and invite them to follow your blog or join your newsletter list. Let them know the benefits of getting your information. This puts them in control and is more respectful than hitting a new acquaintance with sales pitches.
For more information on the legal and technical aspects of spam and blacklists, see the links below…
Here is a good article with details on where to check if you are blacklisted and how to fix it.
This article will explain the laws regarding sending emails.