Are you an entrepreneur starting a business? Or perhaps just curious as to why you are receiving so many emails? Commonly known as newsletters or promotional emails, email marketing is one of the most effective tools out there.

Although well-defined for practitioners, the difference between email marketing and spam can be unclear for the everyday audience and end-receivers. Despite this mist of confusion surrounding both practices, there are a number of key differentiators and legal frameworks, for example the FTC’s CAN SPAM, that actually set the two apart.

Here are some of the differentiators between email marketing and spam:

1. Permission from the receiver. Email marketers have obtained the receivers permission either directly through subscription or by accepting to receive information from a third-party. Spamming refers to the sending of email messages to a large number of recipients that did not approve to be part of the database.

2. Deceptive subject line? None here. The subject line of a marketing email must accurately reflect the content of the message. No “Check out this quick way to make money” titles.

3. Unsubscribing button is a must. Unlike spam, email marketing messages must contain a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from your company in the future.

4. Constantly update your databases. A subscriber wants to opt out? As an email marketer you are obligated to process his request within 10 business days.

5. Your home is your audience’s home. Legally, promotional emails must include a valid physical address where can be contacted directly.

6. Spam usually “smells fishy”. Promises of large sums of money? Email sender’s address reads something like Spam strategies usually use illegitimate addresses for sending and their subjects in most cases revolve around: explicit or illegal content, phishing, asking for money in advance, using scare tactics, pushing useless or erroneous information, defamation ads of competitors etc.
In the U.S., email marketing is a highly regulated field and the violations of FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act can penalize a sender with up to $16,000 per each separate email violation. In Canada, the law is even tougher with fines between $1-10M per violation. Yikes! Take care and respect privacy, folks!