March 17, 2011

CAN-SPAM vs. Best Practices

by Chris Kolbenschlag, Director of Deliverability at Bronto

A while back I was speaking with a postmaster from a major ISP who said “I don’t care if the emails you send are reverse 911 emails, if clients are saying it is spam, I will block it".  I was taken aback by this at first but after considering the comment further, it explained how the ISPs view email. Just because YOU (the sender) may feel these emails are important to the subscribers doesn’t mean the people receiving them agree. There is a huge piece of email knowledge missed by marketers who say my emails are CAN-SPAM compliant and don’t understand the bigger picture.

The CAN-SPAM Act is often referred to as “Yes, you CAN-SPAM” since it has a tone that unsolicited email is legal, as long as you follow these few rules. BUT, there is a much more important factor that influences your inbox placement…. ISP Best Practices.

Stating your emails are CAN-SPAM compliant falls well short of how it all works in the email industry. Simply showing you are compliant with the rules set by the CAN-SPAM Act isn’t enough to get your email delivered and in reality can have zero affect on the placement of your email in the inbox. The ISPs don’t scan email to ensure the email is following the law in regards to ensuring there is a valid postal address, etc. In fact, ISPs block and place in the bulk folder huge amounts of emails that are CAN-SPAM compliant each day. What the ISPs care about is whether their clients want the email you are sending via feedback which determines where your emails end up, which leads us to the topic of permissions.

Permissions rule the email world and impact where your email campaigns are going to end up. Gaining clear consent has a far larger impact on the inbox placement of your messages than the CAN-SPAM Act set by the FTC. ISPs can’t make it any clearer that you MUST have clear permissions for success in getting into the inbox. Even implied consent can lead to issues, for example just because a person bought a shirt on a web site does not necessarily mean now the marketer can add them to the marketing email list. It’s important for marketers to carefully review and determine if their practices are causing high complaints or not. I’ve seen email programs that are a disaster and not because any law was broken but because the program was a violation of ISP best practices and the consumers voiced their opinion by flagging the emails as spam.

At Bronto, we require our customers to comply to the CAN-SPAM Act and go beyond with our Permission Marketing Policy that requires clear permissions. I am not saying that the CAN-SPAM Act isn’t meaningful but simply stating that ISPs require much more from marketers. Fundamentally, in order to increase the likelihood that your message will make it into the inbox, make sure you have permission before sending.

Have you used these best practices and seen good results?  Are have you found that being CAN-SPAM compliant is good enough?  Either way, comment below with your thoughts.

Chris Kolbenschlag
Director of Deliverability at Bronto

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Chris Kolbenschlag, Director of Deliverability at Bronto

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