Is That Spam? Part 2: David Fowler Replies

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Email Marketing

Last week Liz Chafee wrote a post for us called Is That Spam?, in which she brought up some of the gaps between CAN-SPAM compliance and actual best practices for email marketing.

This week, David Fowler, Act-On’s Chief Deliverability and Privacy Officer weighs in:

Hello Liz, and thank you for your thoughts and comments. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to address the email marketing world at large on the topic.

Let’s consider the facts:

In the USA, commercial email is governed by the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. As you discussed, the specific requirements under CAN-SPAM are largely understood and adopted by legitimate email marketers.

So why are we still having the SPAM debate?

Under the guise of the CAN-SPAM act, SPAM is considered to be unsolicited commercial email. Meaning email that is sent without prior permission. However under the same legislation it’s also legal to send a commercial email message to a recipient provided that you haven’t obtained the email address illegally (scraped, stolen etc.).

So technically you are allowed to send SPAM until the recipient tells you to stop, via an opt-out request (electronic, written or verbal).

Hang on a second, I hear you say, don’t those rules counter each other?

Well…that’s where the gray area resides, and many questions remain on the subject.

It’s all in the fine print, in my opinion.

As you consider your list building priorities and practices you have to be extremely transparent with your customers about what you are going to do with their addresses once you have obtained them. Especially if you have acquired a name through a third party.

Retention and Acquisition email are two different areas of the email eco system. They carry completely different challenges associated with permission, relevance engagement and frequency and reputation. (More about that in a later post.)

As the tools for measurement of campaigns are readily available (clicks, opens etc.), it benefits the marketer to establish email engagement thresholds. If you stop sending to non-responders and establish benchmarks for omitting these (non-) users from your programs, this will reduce complaints and your reputation will increase – resulting in better deliverability and ROI. It also cuts the probability of an irritated recipient hitting the spam button through frustration, not caring that they’re marking your honest marketing email as a genuine SPAM email.

SPAM in 2012 is many things to many people. In my opinion, it’s not only non-legal compliant email – but also email that is not relevant to the recipient anymore. An email address causes your deliverability more harm than good if it remains in your active lists for a long period of time with no activity or conversion.

Many inbox providers such as Gmail are using engagement metrics to determine bulking/blocking. If they see that their client isn’t reading/engaging with email from a specific sender, they may simply decide not to even send mail from that sender to the inbox. That in turn gives you, as that sender, a black mark.

Thanks again for your note, Liz. Let me know if you have questions, and thanks for your continued patronage of Act-On Software.

And you, Gentle Reader, what do you think? Do you have questions or comments on the spam issue?