Dear Email Diva,

I understand the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act, but it seems this does not prohibit the sending of an unsolicited email as long as you comply with the rest of the law. Is this true?


Dear Anonymous,

Sadly, you are correct. There is no provision in the act against sending unsolicited email as long as you comply with the rest of the act. The motivation of the act was more to make voters feel politicians were doing something about this annoying problem.

And, sadly, no matter how often the email pundits beg companies not to kill the goose that's laying golden eggs, we keep feeding it arsenic.

The heart of the problem is that email is too inexpensive for its own good. Companies can send email after email and, due to the low cost of the effort, continue to bring in incremental revenue while they annoy the (goose) crap out of customers and prospects.



The email department's problem used to be that they weren't serious players in the development marketing strategy. Now their problem is that every division and subdivision of the company wants to send email and the email department can't keep up with requests, much less control the user experience.

As long as I'm up on this soap box, let me try to persuade you to stop poisoning the medium and your customers' inboxes. There are two main reasons: damage to your brand, and impact on your deliverability.

If you don't trust your own instincts, or the fact that politicians felt it was a demon worth exorcising, consider the Pew Internet & American Life Study on attitudes toward spam. It reports 63% (down from a high of 77% in 2004, but still) of those surveyed said spam has made using email unpleasant or annoying. Is this the brand impression we want to make: unpleasant and annoying?

(And yes, your program may not be spam in the legal sense, but do your customers make the distinction? No, they just know that they don't want to receive email from anyone unless they have requested it.)

Have you surveyed your customers to ask what they want or don't want from your email program in terms of content and frequency? You may realize short-term gains from abusing your email list, but how long will they last?

The other reason to be judicious with your email program is to protect your reputation. Companies with high spam complaints and unscrupulous list-building practices find it increasingly difficult to get their mail delivered. A clean list is its own reward.

So, I beg you: look at the numbers. If you send less email to a smaller group of engaged customers, can you protect your brand and reputation while still making your numbers?

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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