Email can be a great channel to generate new leads and nurture prospect relationships through the sales funnel. However, there are important regulations that must be followed in email marketing. In this blog we provide background information about the key rules as well as actionable tactics for building your list.
Before sending any emails: What you need to know about CAN-SPAM
In 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives signed the federal CAN-SPAM act into law. Formally, the legislation stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing, and it was introduced at a time when SPAM (unwanted and unsolicited) email messages were cropping up in inboxes worldwide.
I. CAN-SPAM covers all commercial email messages, which the law defines as “any email message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Transactional or relationship email messages are not required to comply with CAN-SPAM, but there are situations wherein a transactional or relationship message may lead with commercial or sales-oriented content, and in those cases, the message is still considered to be commercial in nature and subject to CAN-SPAM regulations.
II. Here are the guidelines for sending commercial email messages, summarized by the Bureau of Consumer Protection:
1. Don’t use false or misleading information
2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines (subject line must accurately reflect the content)
3. Identify the email message as an ad
4. Include a valid physical postal address in your email (to show you’re legit)
5. Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future messages from you
6. Honor opt-out requests promptly – within 10 days (the opt-out link or mechanism must be accessible for up to 30 days from the date the email was sent)
7. Finally, you are legally responsible for the actions of anybody you hire or authorize to send email marketing messages on your behalf, so be sure to stay engaged with third parties, and double-check your campaigns against the above criteria to assure your email messages are compliant.
Leasing prospect email lists: What you need to know
While careful discretion is advised when leasing a prospect email list, if you work a trusted partner who is CAN-SPAM compliant, leasing an email list can be an effective option to convert new prospects into future customers.
Leased lists are rented from either proprietary sourced lists or from partners who either own or are partners with websites that allow subscribers to opt-into receiving offers from third-party sources. For example, when a subscriber signs up to receive a newsletter from a company they like, if they also opt-in to receiving advertisements and offers from third party partners at that time, then they have given the affirmative consent or permission needed to comply with CAN-SPAM legislation. Then the subscriber is asked to confirm these permissions via email. This is called a double opt-in process, a recommended best practice for CAN-SPAM compliance.
When you lease a list, the data provider sends the email on your behalf; you do not receive or see the list of email addresses. Reputable data providers will not provide email addresses because they would lose control of the opt-out process, which they are required to handle under CAN-SPAM regulations. With a reputable data provider, email lists are frequently updated, sometimes on a daily basis, and opt-outs are typically managed the same day and within 24 hours. While leasing a list means your data partner will manage email distribution for you, in many cases, you will also be able to tap into their expertise to help craft your email campaign messaging and strategy at no additional cost.
Purchasing email lists: Words of caution
Email harvesting, or the process of obtaining email addresses by gathering them from the public domain (on either an ad hoc or automated basis) is not a recognized email best practice and is potentially punishable under the CAN-SPAM Act. Our word to the wise: Purchased email lists are a gray area in email marketing. If you go this route, you may not have any way of knowing whether the purchased list was obtained with the prior affirmative consent needed to comply with CAN-SPAM regulations. According to ClickZ, an email marketing best practice website, there is no such thing as a purchased “opt-in” list:
Opt-in is another word for affirmative consent or permission. None of these are transferrable between organizations; therefore, you can't "buy" an opt-in list, although you can rent one. Purchase tends to mean that the seller provides the buyer the email addresses; rental involves the renter providing creative that the list owner or broker sends to the list on the renter's behalf (the renter never takes possession of the email addresses).
It may seem like a small detail, but the difference between purchasing an opt-in list and renting an opt-in list is huge. The former is a move that many unsophisticated email marketers make, which can jeopardize their deliverability and their reputation; the latter is an industry-accepted way to go about marketing to third-party email lists.
Best practice: Build your own list
Evolving your business practices to build your own email list is a great way to build a high-quality, targeted, and qualified email prospect list. There are many opportunities to capture prospect email addresses across all marketing channels. A good place to start is by looking for opportunities to gather emails at all of your customer touch points – below are some examples:
Customer service: Ask the prospect for an email address while on the phone, then confirm affirmative consent to receive offers with content or services of interest via email opt-in
Retail outlets: Give an incentive (for example, a 20% discount off of the purchase) for providing an email address at the point-of-sale
Seminar or workshop: Collect email addresses at registration, and offer a door prize for prospects who opt-in to receiving future commercial email messages
Trade shows: Offer to provide the most relevant information about your product/service by email follow up rather than giving away collateral materials that will have to be carried around during the show; offer a drawing item to those who provide an email address and opt-in to future email updates
Public website: Consider providing exclusive value-added content downloadable with an email address and provide an opt-in message for receiving future email updates; all website forms should include a field for email address
Inbound marketing: Use banner ad placements and search engine marketing to drive prospects to your exclusive website content for download or use direct mail pieces with a QR or URL/PURL linking to a web form where prospects can share their contact information and register for future email updates
We hope you’ve found the above email marketing guidelines and tips for renting and building prospect email lists to be helpful. As a best practice, we do not recommend purchasing email lists, but there are reputable providers of rented lists who are CAN-SPAM compliant and able to leverage their expertise in email marketing to help craft your email message and strategy. Finally, we said it above, but it’s worth mentioning one more time: You are legally responsible for the actions of anybody you hire or authorize to send email marketing messages on your behalf, so it’s important to understand your CAN-SPAM obligations and work together with any third parties managing email delivery to ensure compliance.
What tactics have you found to be effective for building your company’s prospecting email list?