Email marketing comprises a large and lucrative portion of any company’s business – and it’s on the rise. Email marketing is the fastest growing marketing medium and it’s used by an increasing number of businesses to communicate with and sell to their customers. According to Forrester, in 2011, email marketing expenditures were growing 10% year over year. Convince and Convert found that consumers who receive email marketing spend 138% more than people who don’t receive email offers and email ad revenue had reached $156 million by 2012 (Interactive Advertising Bureau). Email marketing is as popular as it is effective, as well: when consumers were asked how they would prefer to receive updates, 90% preferred to receive an email newsletterwhile only 10% chose Facebook (Nielsen Norman Group). And email continues to be a thriving source of new business: it’s almost 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter (McKinsey & Company). With as popular as email has become some companies that utilize email marketing may not be aware of the regulations and some of the tools available, such as email appending or email verification, that help you get started reaching your prospects.
Any company, large or small, that uses email to conduct its business needs to be well versed in the CAN-SPAM Act to ensure compliance with email marketing regulations – and to avoid sizable penalties for violations. The CAN-SPAM Act established the rules and requirements for commercial email messages, giving recipients the right to unsubscribe from your list, ceasing any further emails. Thankfully, it’s easy to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act: unlike telemarketing, which has multiple state and federal regulations.  With the CAN-SPAM Act there is only one federal regulation to abide by. Simply put, anyone can send an electronic message to another as long as they follow the CAN-SPAM.

The CAN-SPAM Act applies to all commercial messages, which are defined as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Are you sending a note to former customers? Perhaps you’re sending a newsletter to people who signed up for updates? All emails must be in compliance with this law.

So what are the terms of the CAN-SPAM Act? According to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, the terms are as follows:

  1. Don’t use misleading or false information in your header. Ensure that your “To,” “From,” “Reply-To,” and routing information are accurate and identify the business or person who initiated the message.
  2. Avoid deceptive subject lines. The subject must correctly convey the content of the message.
  3. If your message is an advertisement, identify it as such. You have to clearly and conspicuously disclose that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Provide your location. You have to include a valid physical postal address in your message. Acceptable addresses include post office boxes registered with the US Postal Service, a current street address, or a private mailbox registered with a commercial mail receiving agency and established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Let your recipients know how they can opt-out from emails. Provide a clear and conspicuous way for recipients to opt out of future emails. The opt-out must be easy to read, recognize, and comprehend – and it must be included in every commercial message you send. Ensure that your spam filter doesn’t block opt-out requests.
  6. Immediately honor opt-out requests. You must process opt-out within ten business days. Once someone has indicated that they no longer want to receive email from you, you cannot transfer or sell their email.
  7. Monitor your marketing. If you’re using an outside marketing agency for your email, ensure that it abides by all of the CAN-SPAM regulations. The company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.


So how do you know if the CAN-SPAM Act covers the email that your business is sending? You’ll need to determine the primary purpose of your email: is it commercial, transactional/relationship, or “other?” Commercial content advertises or promotes a product or service. Transactional/relationship facilitates a preexisting customer relationship or transaction. And “other” content is neither transactional nor commercial.

Email marketing continues to be a lucrative source of business for companies, but to reap the benefits of a successful email campaign or email relationship with your customers, you’ll first need to know the terms of the CAN-SPAM. Fortunately, unlike telemarketing, there’s only one law that you’ll need to become familiar with. And familiarizing yourself with it along with other email marketing tools available just might be the best return on investment you’ll ever have with your marketing.