Is CAN-SPAM Helping E-Mail Marketers?

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Many marketers were concerned about what the effects of the CAN-SPAM Act would be, and numerous companies left the e-mail marketing space entirely. It was reported in the spring that CAN-SPAM compliance was confounding many e-mail marketers. Meanwhile, the Pew Charitable Trust issued a report that e-mail users were more fed up than ever and that they trusted e-mail even less than before CAN-SPAM took effect.

Without consumer trust in e-mail, how possibly can CAN-SPAM be benefiting e-mail marketers?

Yet some e-mail companies have seen their fortunes rise since CAN-SPAM took effect. The law separated the wheat from the chaff in e-mail. Sure, there are still plenty of offshore spammers who can't be touched by U.S. legislation. But the number of domestic spammers fell immediately, and so did spam - perhaps by 10 percent, right off the bat.

Many of the U.S. spammers who left the business had taken advantage of illegal open relays. These companies essentially had been taking over users' hard drives and hijacking their bandwidth to send spam and fraudulent messages with no consent, usually with come-ons for pornography, illegally imported prescription drugs and body part enlargements. These aren't gone, but there are far fewer of them.

Companies that weren't true spammers but hadn't invested in meaningful compliance suddenly had to make a business decision. They either had to get out of e-mail marketing or work with a vendor that knew how to make e-mail work the right way, both for them and for users.

This is why some vendors who had worked together in various network configurations suddenly had to stop. For example, a company as large as Naviant, which was acquired shortly before CAN-SPAM took effect, was essentially dropped altogether by its new parent, Equifax. CAN-SPAM brought considerations of risk management into business decisions for many legitimate marketers, forcing some e-mail marketers to leave the space.

What our industry is left with are mainly legitimate marketers, working under an umbrella of compliance. Brands and agencies can come to these companies confident that they do business the right way. We always recommend to our clients and would-be clients that if they have concerns about e-mail and complying with CAN-SPAM that they probably are right, and that's why they would be smart to work only with reputable marketers.

When choosing an e-mail vendor or a company to manage your lists or media database, ask around, check their references and find others that they didn't provide. E-mail still can provide tremendous ROI when executed properly.


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