As of 2019, email marketing has officially entered middle age. Like a lot of 40+ year olds, email marketing can look back at a long history of success and, by committing to a set of best practices going forward, shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. One of the foundations of the continued ‘good health’ of the industry, is a focus on best practices in email compliance.

What is Email Compliance?

In the early days of email marketing, there were few laws or official regulations that set standards for the industry to follow. As the adoption of email grew and the marketing channel expanded, as well, it became clear that guidelines were needed to both protect consumers and provide a rulebook for marketers to follow in their email programs. While there are various laws governing email marketing around the globe, in the United States, the most relevant law is the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. CAN-SPAM provided a clear set of rules under which email marketers could lawfully send marketing messages via email to a list of recipients.

CAN-SPAM Overview

CAN-SPAM includes a number of requirements for marketers to follow when sending ‘commercial’ email messages. Some of the key aspects (but not all) of the CAN-SPAM Act include:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information (From, To, and other routing info)
  • Identify the message as an advertisement
  • Don’t use a “deceptive” subject line
  • Provide a mechanism for recipients to opt-out of future mailings

The law also defines penalties for companies that are found to be non-compliant with their email programs. Currently, the FTC can impose a fine of up to $41,484 for each separate email sent in violation of the law.

One aspect of CAN-SPAM that can be challenging for marketers is a requirement that if an advertiser engages with a third-party company to handle their email marketing program or to market on their behalf, both the advertiser and the third-party company can be subject to fines for non-compliance. So, any company that hires an email marketing agency or leverages affiliate marketers must monitor those third-parties to ensure compliance.

Email Suppression List Management

For companies involved in email marketing, one of the ways they stay compliant with CAN-SPAM, is by employing proper email suppression list management. A suppression list is a list of email addresses that for various reasons, are not to be emailed in a particular campaign. One fundamental suppression file that every email marketer must maintain, update, and use in every campaign is an opt-out or unsubscribe list. This list is made up of email addresses that have provided a request to opt-out of future email messaging from the company. An opt-out list is also a dynamic list, as new addresses are added to it when email users submit opt-out requests. In the instance where a company leverages third-parties within their email program, up-to-date suppression files must be distributed to those outside companies before emails are sent. Then, any new opt-outs collected by those third-parties must be added to the advertiser’s opt-out list and distributed the next time the suppression list is used by outside mailers.

Advertisers may overcome this challenge by employing a suppression list management platform that automates the collection, storage, and distribution of opt-out files, while also monitoring the entire process.

Suppression files can also extend well beyond the opt-out list. Advertisers use suppression files to help remove email addresses from mailings based on a variety of variables. For example, if a campaign is focused on bringing in new customers, then a suppression file of all current customers might be employed to ensure the emails are only sent to potential new customers. In this way, suppression list management addresses a key requirement of email compliance with CAN-SPAM, but also provides advertisers with a tool for targeting their email audiences in various ways.

Effective email suppression list management is a key to running a compliant and successful email marketing program. For more information, download this Guide to Email Suppression List Management from OPTIZMO Technologies.