Email Marketing

The Email Marketing No No List – The Legal Side


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Congratulations! You’ve finally decided to start an email marketing program!

While email marketing allows for a lot of creativity and direct contact between you and your customers, there are a lot rules you need be aware before you click that send button.

The Legal Rules of Email Marketing

We’ll get into the strategics of email marketing in another blog, but first, you need to know that there are laws in place that define how you can and cannot use promotional emails for your business. Cue the CAN-SPAM Act.

Here’s a break down of the big no-nos, in relation to the law:

    1. Don’t lie about who you are – make sure that your account settings have your actual business name and correct domain name so that people know who they’re getting an email from. Check these settings. Even if you’ve done it by accident, it’s still against the law.
    2. Don’t use sneaky subject lines to trick someone to open – with email open rates down, it can be tempting to try new things to entice people to open your emails. That being said, if your subject line doesn’t reflect the contents of the newsletter, then you are breaking the law. Be transparent. This doesn’t mean your subject lines have to be dry and boring, but just make sure that they do indicate some idea of what’s inside.
    3. Don’t hide where you or your business are located – when you send promotional emails, it is an absolute must to include your physical or mailing address. For single-owner service-based businesses with a home office or eCommerce businesses, the topic always comes up when talking about boundaries and security. If you don’t want your email subscribers or anyone online to know your home address, then get a  PO Box. It is required in most platforms’ terms and conditions, like MailChimp. You must show your address to use their service and stay within the law.
    4. Don’t make it hard for people to opt-out of your mailing list – period. Rejection can be hard, but if you’re sending promotional emails, you need to get over that quick. In each email, you send there should be a clear way for someone to opt-out of your mailing list. The usual option is a link at the bottom of the footer that says “Unsubscribe”. Make sure this is there is every email. Without it, you’re breaking the law.
    5. Don’t be a jerk. Remove someone from your list if they ask – when someone gives you their email address, they are giving you a personal direct line to get in touch with them. Don’t abuse this. If they want to ask you to “stop calling them”, don’t stalk them or “pretend you didn’t hear the request”. Legally, you need to honor someone’s opt-out request within 10 days of receiving it. On top of this, don’t even think about charging someone a fee to opt-out. That’s basically holding their email address for ransom. When someone’s off your list, they’re off your list. Don’t send them an “are you sure?” message (they don’t want to hear from you anymore!), don’t email them a few months later just to see if they come back, and certainly do not give or sell their email address to someone else. All very illegal.
    6. Don’t turn a blind eye when you hire someone else – if you hire another company to do your email marketing, you are still held legally responsible for anything they do with your list. Before hiring someone, feel out how much they know about the CAN-SPAM Act and if you move forward, monitor their efforts. Yes, this can feel a bit “micro-managey, but a regular check-in with your marketing consultant is always a good idea to make sure you’re on the same page with strategy, budget, etc. This is just another thing to add to that list. If the marketing team is professional, they will happily welcome a conversation.

    We recommend printing this list out and referring to it in the beginning few months of your DIY email marketing efforts. This way you can easily make sure you’re in-line with the laws and sending kick-ass legal emails!

    Feeling good? Now you’re ready to hit send!


    This is the first in a two-part series on email marketing. In our next blog, we’ll go over the unspoken No No List of email marketing. Think – formatting, content, and frequency. If you want to make sure you get this blog, sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send it right to your inbox, the legal way. 🙂

    If you’ve read this blog and are still having email marketing doubts, give us a holler or comment below to start a conversation.

  1. We’re pretty helpful.


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