Email Marketing Etiquette – Make Sure You Are Complying With the CAN-SPAM Laws


Although we email marketers are required to seriously attend to email etiquette far more today than before the rules were defined by the US government in the CAN SPAM act, email marketing remains one of the top marketing methods employed by large and small companies.


If you answered yes, you join many who falsely believe that emailing is no longer a viable way of marketing your on-line and home business. President Bush signed the law into effect in 2003 in order to combat the encroachment on email and telephone privacy by aggressive marketers. Compliance with the act is fairly intuitive and simple for the average home business owner; there are 7 rules of “etiquette” which must be followed.

  1. Use your business name when you send emails; don’t try to mislead your reader into thinking that the message is sent by anyone other than you.
  2. Be truthful about what your message is about.
  3. The law requires that the message clearly identify that it is an advertisement; there is a good deal of latitude here-but the advertising nature of the message must be clearly and conspicuously displayed.
  4. Tell your readers the geographic address of your office.
  5. Be clear about how your reader can opt out from receiving future messages from you.
  6. Act promptly when a reader wants to be unsubscribed-the law requires action within 10 days after a request. And never, ever sell or transfer that email address to someone else.
  7. Watch what others are doing on your behalf. If you hire a company to be your list manager or autoresponder, make very sure that they honor the CAN SPAM law, if they don’t, you are responsible.

Those are the essential elements of the law. Not too bad, right?

So now that you comply with these 7 rules, you’ll no longer be in danger of spamming, right?

You’re correct that you’ll not be in danger of fines from the FTC but wrong in imagining that your messages cannot be identified as SPAM or that one of your customers will not accuse you of spamming and report you to their ISP (internet service provider).


Seth Godin called it permission marketing and the term is even more important than when he coined it 15 years ago. Write to customers who know you- don’t ever import a list of email addresses and mail them your messages.

Many-if not most-people have email programs which automatically identify messages with words or characteristics that look like spam: a headline with “free” is a sure bet to land your message in the spam filters, exclamation marks in headlines are another way for your message to end up in the spam inbox or to be undeliverable.

But if you know what you are doing and you write copy that will make it through the SPAM filters, you can still be accused of spamming simply because a reader no longer wants to hear from you.

So how do you handle the unsubscribers? Expect folks to unsubscribe and work to constantly expand your list.

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