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How to Collect Your E-Mail Marketing Addresses Legally

1 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Building Your E-Mail Marketing Lists

The CAN-SPAM Act includes regulations on how e-mail marketers, such as yourself, can collect e-mail addresses. The act also mandates that you receive permission from your e-mail list subscribers before you send certain types of content, such as the commercial e-mails you want to send.

Collecting e-mail addresses with affirmative consent in mind

Potentially illegal methods of the collection of e-mail addresses aren’t always easy to spot, so the best practice is to make sure that you have explicit permission from everyone on your list to send them e-mail. Some best practices for steering clear of potentially permission-less e-mail addresses include:

  • Never purchase an e-mail list from a company that allows you to keep the e-mail addresses as a data file. E-mail addresses kept in a data file are easily bought and sold, and e-mail addresses sold in this manner are almost never collected with explicit permission for third-party use.

  • Never collect e-mail addresses from websites and other online directories. You don’t have affirmative consent from the owner if you get addresses this way.

  • Don’t use an e-mail address collection service. Unless the service verifies that it collects confirmed permission for third-party use from every subscriber, don’t use it.

  • Don’t borrow an e-mail list from another business or send e-mail to an e-mail list. Those subscribers didn’t explicitly opt-in to receive your e-mails.

  • Don’t rent an e-mail list unless you’re certain that the list rental company’s practices are legally compliant. Most rental companies don’t have lists with explicit third-party permission.

Using full disclosure during e-mail address collection

The CAN-SPAM Act encourages you to have affirmative consent with your e-mail list subscribers to send them commercial e-mail, but the most professional practice is to use an extra measure of disclosure when asking for permission. Ways for you to take affirmative consent to a more professional level include:

  • Everywhere you collect e-mail addresses, ask for explicit permission to send e-mail. Whether you exchange business cards with prospects in person or collect e-mail addresses through a form on your website, make sure you obtain explicit permission as part of the process. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of your permission exchanges in case you ever face a legal complaint.

  • If you use e-mail list check boxes on website forms, keep each check box cleared (deselected) as the default. For example, if you use your website’s shipping form to collect e-mail addresses, require your shoppers to select a check box to add themselves to any nontransactional e-mail lists. Make sure that the check box also includes a description of the types of e-mails your shopper is signing up for.

  • Send a professional welcome letter e-mail to all new e-mail list subscribers that reinforces the permission agreement. Make sure that the welcome letter e-mail arrives within 24 hours of the initial subscription request and also include privacy information and a description of the types and frequency of e-mails that the new subscriber receives. Your E-Mail Marketing Provider can send an automatic e-mail when folks join your e-mail list through an online form. A good welcome letter e-mail looks something like this:

    [Credit: Courtesy of Wonderland Homes and Constant Contact]
    Credit: Courtesy of Wonderland Homes and Constant Contact
  • Send periodic permission reminders to confirm that your e-mail list subscribers are still interested in your e-mails. You can send a periodic business letter or include a few sentences at the top of your e-mails asking your subscribers to confirm their interests.

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