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Can Your "Free" Marketing End Up Costing You Thousands?

Dec 10, 2007
Many entrepreneurs start email marketing campaigns because they provide an easy, inexpensive way to stay in touch with prospects and clients. But beware! If you're not following these few simple rules, your "free" marketing could land you with thousands of dollars in fines.

Keeping these best practices in mind before you hit the Send button will ensure that your email is CAN-SPAM compliant:

Ensure subscriber privacy. Never, ever, ever share your readers' email addresses or other personal information. And likewise, don't ever use email addresses that were shared with you. Make sure your subscribers have specifically asked to be added to your mailing list.

This seems simple enough, but if you're new to email marketing and you're trying to do it all yourself from your own PC (as I've seen many new entrepreneurs do) you need to pay special attention to this point. If you create a distribution list in Outlook and use that list in your "To:" field, you've just shared every email address with every reader! If you absolutely must maintain your own list, enter your own email address in the "To:" field and your distribution list in the "Bcc:" field.

If you want to be really, really safe, use a double opt-in process. This simply means, when someone subscribes to your publication, he must confirm his subscription before he is actually added to your mailing list. If you don't use a double opt-in, you're not violating any CAN-SPAM laws, but double opt-in is definitely a best practice.

Allow your readers to easily get off your list. Each and every email must should include an easy-to-use unsubscribe link. Once a reader asks to be unsubscribed, you only have 10 days to remove them from your list. Fortunately, most email marketing software packages and online services will handle the unsubscribe process for you automatically. If you're keeping your own list, make sure you maintain it in a very timely manner.

Be sure to include your contact information in each and every email. CAN-SPAM laws require that you include your name, phone number and a physical address. This can be a sticky situation for the hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who works from home. Technically speaking, PO Boxes are "not allowed", but as of this writing, I have not heard of anyone being fined for using a PO Box instead of a physical address. Personally, I don't feel comfortable including my home address in mailings to thousands of anonymous readers. So, for now, I'm taking my chances and using a PO Box.
About the Author
Karen Scharf offers several whitepapers, free reports and checklists, including her FREE Can-Spam checklist and FREE email pre-flight checklist to ensure your emails get delivered, get opened and get read. Download your copies at http://www.modernimage.com/freereports/canspam.htm .
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