It’s hard to argue with the benefits of email marketing. Email is the number one way to connect with your customer wherever they are.
There are about 3.8 billion email accounts worldwide, expected to grow to 4.48 billion in 2024.
Even with dozens of social media platforms and other online tools, email marketing remains an effective way to connect brands to customers.
However, there are rules for companies who choose to run email campaigns.
Email marketing rules prevent business leaders from pelting consumers with unwanted spam and junk emails. They also ensure people can’t email you if you don’t give them permission to do so first.
Here are the email marketing rules and regulations you should be aware of.
An introduction to email marketing laws
To fully understand which email marketing rules you need to follow, you’ll need to decide who you’re going to email. The eMarketing world ensures companies can connect with customers all around the globe.
However, the way you send an email in France may be quite different to how you need to send one in the United States.
There are several email marketing rules and regulations out there, but the most common are:
United States – The CAN-SPAM Act
This law sets the rules for commercial emails, and what kind of rights you have when sending them. CAN-SPAM dictates you can never use misleading information in your header. You can’t use subject lines to deceive customers, and you must define the message as an advertisement.
You also need to offer customers a way to opt-out of your emails, and honor their requests to do so.
Canada – The CASL
Otherwise known as Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, this follows similar rules to CAN-SPAM. Under these guidelines, you must get consent to send emails to your customers, and you must be clear about the messages you’re sending.
The UK: – GDPR and Privacy and Electronic Regulations
GDPR demands you must always ask for permission from your customers to send them advertising information and hold onto their data.
Australia: – SPAM Act
The SPAM act of 2003 in Australia prevents companies from sending emails otherwise defined as “spam” to customers and subscribers. Once again, you will need to ask for permission to send messages to customers.
If you’re a company sending emails around the world, there’s a lot to keep track of. Fortunately, you can often protect yourself from a variety of email marketing laws by following a few basic rules.
Tips for following email marketing rules and regulations
Want to ensure you’re staying ahead of the email marketing laws and spam rules?
The following list of top tips should keep you on the right side of the regulations worldwide…
1. Get permission to email people
This one should be obvious, but it’s something many people unfortunately overlook.
Most email marketing laws worldwide dictate you need express permission from customers to send them any kind of email. How “permission” is defined can differ between countries, but in general, it’s best to go for express permission.
Express permission means you actively ask your customers whether they want to sign up to receive offers, deals, and marketing messages from you via email. You don’t just assume it’s ok to send emails because a client has bought something from you in the past.
To further ensure you’re only sending messages to the people who want them, you can also use a double opt-in process. This means you ask someone to confirm they want to receive emails from you by clicking on a link or button you send to their inbox.
Double opt-in may mean you have fewer people in your email list, but it should ensure the people you contact do want to hear from you.
2. Don’t mislead your customers
Another common occurrence in email marketing rules, is a law which asks you not to mislead your customers. In other words, you shouldn’t tell someone you’re giving them something for free in the email header, then bombard them with ads in the email copy.
Make it clear who’s sending the email in your “from” name and be honest about what the email is about. You may even need to stipulate this is a commercial email if you want to follow CAN-SPAM laws.
CAN-SPAM describes any email with an electronic advertisement or promotional message is “commercial”.
If you do offer something in the header, make sure you follow through in the email itself.
3. Include the right information
Aside from insights into your latest offerings, your emails should provide some other useful information too. Most countries email marketing rules indicate you need to include a valid postal address for your business in an email campaign.
You can add this data to the bottom of the email.
Crucially, you must also offer a way for your customer to opt-out of receiving messages if they decide they don’t want to hear from you anymore.
When someone clicks on a link and tells you they want to opt out, honor the request promptly. CAN-SPAM email spam rules say companies need to honor an opt-out request within 10 days.
Even if there wasn’t an email opt-out law to be aware of, there’s no point keeping someone on your list who doesn’t want to be there. The chances are they’ll just send your messages to their spam folder, which harms your sender reputation.
4. Don’t buy email lists
You’re allowed to buy email lists in some parts of the world, technically – but you shouldn’t. Ultimately, you need specific permission from your customers to send them email messages. Failing to get this permission puts you in a world of problems.
Just because participants gave permission to be on a list you bought doesn’t mean they’re happy for you to send them emails.
Even if you did get permission, you’re just buying a random selection of addresses here – there’s no guarantee you’re going to connect with anyone who’s genuinely interested in your brand.
Stick to sending emails to targeted groups of people who tell you they want to hear from you. This will help ensure email compliance in virtually any company and keep you on the good side of email laws. Plus, it means you can be more specific with your email campaigns.
5. Store consent information
Finally, you want to be able to prove you’ve got the right to send emails to your customers if you ever face a problem with email laws. This means you should store any consent information you have from your customers. Consent is a freely given agreement for the purpose of sending emails.
If you’re using an email subscription strategy where your customers need to “uncheck” a box when buying a product from you not to receive emails, this isn’t consent. Instead, you need a system to record exactly what you told your customers, and what they agreed to.
Always watch out for what other companies are doing on your behalf too. Email rules and regulations dictate even if you outsource your campaigns to a third party, you’re responsible for what they do on your behalf. Keep contracts outlining what you asked the company to do for you.
Make sure you’re following email laws
Around the world, most countries will have some email marketing rules and regulations you need to be aware of. This is because human beings have a right to determine how their information is used.
It’s worth remembering too, although email marketing laws are looser for transactional emails, they still exist. Don’t think you can ignore email laws just because you’re sending an order confirmation or a transaction receipt.
As the world becomes increasingly cautious about the way people interact with companies online, the laws surrounding email marketing are bound to grow more complex.
You can save yourself some significant time and headaches if you ensure the email marketing tools you use are compliant. Most of the leading products today come with solutions to help to ensure you can avoid issues with things like CAN-SPAM and GDPR.
Just remember, it’s up to you to stay up-to-date with the regulations.
Don’t be caught on the wrong side of email marketing law.
Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.
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