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Email Marketing: Know the Rules

April 4, 2013

With so much of a home-buyers experience taking place online, it’s no surprise that email marketing still plays a crucial part in any real estate professionals marketing strategy. While social media and direct mailings all play a role, email marketing is one of the fastest, relatively simple, and cost-effective ways you can drive customers to your website.
However, this is really only accomplished if you do it properly. If you do it wrong, not only will you likely annoy and deter clients from using your services, but you also much be breaking the law. Yes – not sending your emails properly can land you in some legal hot water AND financial trouble. In 2003, Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act which regulates the rules of commercial email and the rights of consumers. Violations of the CAN-SPAM Act are subject to penalties up to $16,000 for each separate email in violation. 
So – how can you avoid it? Here are 7 tips you must be following if you’re using email for your business:

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Many CRM systems allow you to change your “From” and “Reply-To” lines in your email. If you do this, it should still accurately reflect the business or person who initiated the message – including the originating domain name.
  2. Subjects lines should be straightforward. The subject line should accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. If you are sending a direct ad, identify it as such – there’s some flexibility in how you do this, but it must be done.
  4. Must include a valid physical postal address. Whether this is your office address, a PO box, or a private registered mailbox – you have to include a mailing address in your commercial emails.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. You must give a clear explanation of how a recipient can opt-out of your mailing list. This can be by clicking a link, sending you an email, or another method – but it has to be clear, visibly, and easy to understand. While you can ask them only to opt-out from certain subset of message types, “all commercial messages” must be an option.
  6. Honor opt-out requests in a time sensitive fashion. Opt-out mechanisms are only useful (and lawful) if they work – and in a timely manner. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. The opt-out mechanism has to be as simple as sending a reply email or visiting a single-step website. Once they opt-out you cannot sell or transfer their email address.
  7. Monitor any vendor or company you are using for email marketing. Even if you hire another company or vendor to handle your email marketing – you are not exempt from legal responsibility. Both the company / business who is promoted in the message and the company that sends the message can be held legally responsible.
These tips are fairly straightforward – and luckily for you, most email marketing platforms have these protections built in. However, it’s worth taking a look at your next newsletter or email blasts and see what the consumer sees. Run through this checklist and make sure you aren’t making a $16,000 mistake. Happy emailing!

 

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