Dear Marketers, Don't Forget CAN-SPAM


Ever get a "professional persistence" email that offers three options as to why you haven't responded to previous emails? One of them is always 'hilarious'. "You're stuck under the desk and you can't get out - let me know and I'll send help!".

Carbon8's very own VP of Technology, Jeff Robertson, is here to help enlighten us all about the pitfalls of these and other types of "personal" emails that aren't really personal in the latest Carbon8 video blog:



Have you gotten one of the new wave of marketing emails? Perhaps you have and you didn’t even know. These are the marketing emails that look a lot like a personal message. Here’s one I got today:

Hi Jeff,

I’ve tried to reach you a few times to discuss possible opportunities for staff augmentation at Carbon8, but haven’t heard back which tells me one of three things:

1.You’re interested but haven’t had a chance to respond. (I feel for you!)

2.You aren’t interested. (I hope not)

3.You’re being chased by a stormtrooper and haven’t had time to respond. (not a good situation to be in)

Please let me know which one as I’m starting to worry!

I began to notice these a few months ago when I got a whole bunch of them that all looked nearly identical. They all start with what looks like a personal message, and they all have some kind of joke about how I’m ignoring their emails because [insert random reference here].

These have been coming regularly for months. They are not personal emails, of course. They’re sent via marketing automation systems and made to look like they’re personal.

The other day, I got my favorite one yet:




Apparently he was too busy being sincere to make sure his marketing automation system put my name in correctly… or to use the proper version of “guarantee.” (Full disclosure, he sent a follow up owning his mistake. Second full disclosure, I judge people’s spelling, and I’m not sorry.)

And if that weren’t enough proof these are automated, you can also just look at the email headers and see exactly where it came from. In Outlook, hit File > Properties and start scrolling.

Here’s a different “personal” email I got. People send their personal email from HubSpot’s marketing automation system? How odd.




So here’s the deal… I have no problem with trying different marketing techniques. That’s our job, after all. I have some problem with you being intentionally deceptive, because tricking people is not a viable long-term marketing technique (nor is it cool). But I’m concerned these emails may actually be illegal.

Here’s a summary of CAN-SPAM: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

Let’s see how these emails stack up:

  • They’re clearly commercial, which makes the rules apply
  • The subject line is not misleading, which is good
  • They tell me where they are physically located because all of the “CEO” email signatures have the company address in them.

But here’s where they fail –

Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand.

Read the emails above… are they telling me how to opt out? The closest they get is “If I should call off the dogs, please just tell me.” If you believe the email is coming from a real person, as is the intent, that doesn’t fit my definition of “clear and conspicuous” since I don’t even know I’m on a marketing list -- perhaps the sender would argue otherwise.

You can do great marketing while being completely legal (not to mention ethical), and that’s what we advise our clients to do. All these emails need to add is a line at the bottom that says something like “If you’re not interested in receiving further email, click here.”

I’d also encourage them to add a little more detail about their product. I really don’t mind being marketed to, but just saying “call me if you hate reporting” is not really a solution to my problem. I know you want to sell me something… what is it? How will it help me? If it’s intriguing, I’d click a link to read more.

I’ll reply to these emails with my suggestions later, when I am no longer being chased by a stormtrooper.

PS – Here’s another email I got after writing this article, and they did it right – good for them! Also, I find it interesting how many solicitations I get for outsourced development. We have our own development team. Apparently many agencies do not.



Jeff Robertson

Jeff Robertson is a digital marketer and an online development expert with experience stretching back to dial-up. He is partner and Chief Technology Officer at Carbon8, where he helps bridge the gap between the technical and marketing worlds, as well as oversees technical infrastructure.

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