Email Marketing and CAN-SPAM Act

By Sarah Giometti | Email Marketing

May 15

We’ll never get away from the typical SPAM (Nigeria millionaires anyone?), but no reputable business should violate the CAN-SPAM act. Ever. Email SPAM violations by businesses is a pet peeve of mine. There is no excuse for it. Ever. We never recommend that a company buy an email list because you haven’t earned the trust of the people on that list. They probably don’t know who you are and you will just annoy them because they’ll have no idea how they got on your list. Every business should build their list from scratch. This way you know that every person on the list has given you permission to communicate with them via email.

Email Marketing & CAN-SPAM ActHere’s a story of a company that I recently dealt with, which prompted this blog article. I started receiving emails on my personal email from, let’s call them Company X, a few months ago. Company X is a retail store about 30-45 minutes away from where I live. I have never stepped foot in this store. I have never shopped online through this store (don’t even know if they have an online store!). I definitely didn’t give them my email address. Since I do what I do for a living, I wasn’t overly offended because I figured I could easily unsubscribe when I had a minute. When I finally found that minute and got around to unsubscribing from their emails, I discovered (much to my dismay!) that there was no link to be automatically unsubscribed. They wanted me to call them to unsubscribe. What?? Now, Company X is part of a national chain, and they’re telling me that they don’t utilize some sort of email marketing software that manages their list for them? Well, that’s just asking for trouble. What trouble you might ask? The kind that gets you fined up to $16,000 for each violation. Yikes!

I most definitely wasn’t going to call them and try to spell my last name and hope they get it right, so I just replied to the email and nicely asked to be removed. No response. Next SPAM email comes (because it is SPAM at this point) and now I’m a little annoyed. I ask again, via email reply, to be removed and threaten to report them. Next SPAM email comes and now I’m really annoyed. I report them to the FTC and let them I know that I did. I magically get a response and apology, and am told that I’ll be removed immediately. Yippee! Right? Nope, had to report them again. We’ll see if I still get an email next month.

Here’s the problem I have with this: technically they weren’t violating the CAN-SPAM act the first time because they gave me a way to unsubscribe (call them). Nobody wants that option. I want to click a link and be automatically unsubscribed. Every business should make it this easy, because it just makes you look bad if you make it difficult or inconvenient. Every business should use some sort of email marketing software to manage your list for you. Why? To cover your you-know-what. Why take the risk? A $16,000 fine would permanently cripple a small business to the point of having to close their doors. There are plenty of free and low-cost options, like MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Vertical Response. Pick one you like and use it. All of these platforms have one thing in common: they automatically add (and require you to have) an unsubscribe link in each email you send out. This makes it really easy for your customers and potential customers to remove themselves from your list without having to contact you. This makes them happy. If they’re happy with you, they won’t say bad things about you to their friends and family, who could be your potential customers lost forever if they’re told bad things about you.

The moral of the story is this: please, please, please use email marketing software that includes an unsubscribe link in all of your promotional email communications. If you need a little help with your email marketing, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We love helping small businesses with their internet marketing efforts! Here’s a handy CAN-SPAM compliance guide for businesses if you want to learn more.

About the Author

As a top industry expert with more than 20 years of marketing experience, Sarah Giometti founded Provaro Marketing in 2009 after developing her marketing savvy as a marketing and graphic design professional within one of the top mechanical contractors in the U.S. and a large medical group. Sarah has a passion for marketing solutions that drive measurable results specific to local businesses. Sarah has integrated this dedication to growth-focused digital marketing strategies into the business practices at Provaro. As a small business owner herself, Sarah knows how vital growth remains for any small business, which is why she focuses on the best strategies for local business growth.