Email marketing is big. It’s no secret. Email marketing is one of the best ways to not only ensure that your brand and your products or services stay fresh within the minds of your clients, it allows you to catch their attention, appealing to the impulse buy side of your clientele.

Leverage Existing Relationships

(Legitimate Ones)

If an individual sees your product or service in their email and thinks that what you are offering is a great deal they may simply click through the email to purchase it, as they already have a relationship with your company, without feeling the need to do any form of price comparison or the like. It’s easy for people to get caught up in the moment, wanting to get their products and services out to as many people as humanly possible, regardless of whether or not the person has technically asked for that email from you. There’s just one problem with this. That type of behavior is illegal; an internet no-no.

“But I just found this list of people’s email addresses! It’s obvious that they wouldn’t have left it lying about if they didn’t want others to use it” you might proclaim. Or you might have decided to purchase a mailing list, share email addresses with your buddy who has an email list as well, or simply have pulled email addresses off of Craig’s list or some other site where such information is freely posted. You might justify it to yourself in a thousand and one different ways, but the fact of the matter is that the justification doesn’t count, not when it goes against the CAN-SPAM act, your hosting provider’s terms of service and acceptable use policies, and their upstream providers terms of service and acceptable use policies.

The Low Down:

In order for your mailing list to be a legitimate one, in order for your messages to not be considered spam, and to ensure that you are able to stay with your hosting provider, there are several things that you cannot do.

You cannot:

  • Use a purchased mailing list
  • Use a mailing list that was given to you
  • Use a mailing list that you found somewhere (sorry, that email address you found in the back of the taxi can’t be just tacked on to the end of your list, gotta throw that one out!)
  • Randomly generate email addresses and send out messages to all of them, hoping one goes through to a legitimate email address.

“Well, that seems like a lot that I can’t do,” you might think to yourself, and the truth is, you’re right. You cannot do anything that gets around the idea of not getting someone’s permission to email them. So what can you do, not only to make sure that your mailing list is legitimate, but that it’s CAN-SPAM compliant?

The Double Opt In:

Make sure that you get everyone’s permission to email them, not once, but twice. This process is referred to as double opt in, and it means that not only does someone have to give you their email address, but you then have to ask them if they really meant to give it to you, and they have to say yes before you can start including them on your mailing list. The process usually goes something like this:

  1. A person puts in an email address on your site, indicating that they want to receive email from you. The reason this isn’t enough is that you have no way of knowing whether the person entering the email address is the one that owns the email address.
  2. You receive their form with their email address listed. You’re excited! You want to add them to your list, but you just can’t yet. First you have to send them an email, typically with a link that will write to a database stating the date and time that they accepted (this is the second time they are accepting).
  3. They will click on the link, writing the information to the database (you want to retain this information in case you later get reported as spam, thus proving your legit status and ensuring that you don’t get in trouble).
  4. You will add them to your mailing list and can email them every time you send out the mailing list.


The Rest Of The Story:

Keep in mind that there are other laws, rules and regulations that you may need to adhere to, such as  the fact that all individuals requesting access to adult content, if that’s what you’re offering, must be over eighteen, but it’s your responsibility to determine whether what you are sending needs those additional features. You can read about the guidelines at the FTC’s site here:

Remember, if you receive a complaint from your hosting provider about your mailing list, they’re not only working to make sure that you are in compliance with the rules, but that they are as well. They don’t want to get in trouble either for violating Federal law, so don’t take it personally, just remember that you’ve got to keep your mailing list legit; once it’s there, it’s smooth sailing for both of you.

Image Source: Dartmouth. (2014). Mailing List. [image online] Available at: [Accessed: 25 Mar 2014].