Sunday, February 14, 2010

You might be a spammer without knowing it

If you use email to keep in touch with customers and prospects, watch out! You might be a spammer and not even know it.

Or, to be more precise, you might be labeled a spammer and get your mail blocked.

Case in point: I was working on a campaign to reactivate a client's old customers. Out of the entire customer list, we had 551 email addresses.

I knew I would have problems sending an email blast through Outlook, so I sent it with GroupMail--a program I had used for another client's newsletter. Only this time, none of the emails were delivered. They all bounced back instead.

As it turned out, the company's own ISP blocked the emails. They have a policy not to allow any email to be sent if it is addressed to more than five recipients! Any more than five, they consider spamming!

OK, so I tried it from home. So what happened? None of the test messages and seed addresses in the group were delivered.

Where are they? I wish I knew! But I did find out why they were not delivered. My home ISP (Verizon) includes the following in its Anti-Spam Policy:

Limitations on Sending E-mail
  • You may send a single e-mail message to a maximum of 100 recipients in one mailing, not to exceed 500 recipients within a one hour period. All single e-mails sent to over 100 addressees will not be delivered. No notice will be given to you in this case.
  • If you send e-mails to more than 500 recipients within a one hour period, your ability to send ANY e-mail messages is suspended for 24 hours. You will receive a Notice regarding this action.
More than likely, your ISP has a similar policy. So what can you do?

I still like GroupMail and they have excellent customer service. But make sure you can use it with your ISP. Otherwise your email will fall into a black hole. You could use Google Groups or Yahoo Groups, but those are more for discussion lists. If you are sending one-way messages and want more control, the best option is to use one of the email marketing services, like Constant Contact, Aweber or MailChimp.(Note: I was using another service, but just switched to MailChip. Too early to judge, but they do seem to be user-friendly and just plain friendly.)

Even with those services, though, you may have to jump through hoops trying to prove you aren't spamming. To fully comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, the services have their own rules requiring you verify that your list is kosher (not Spam). (I had a devil of a time trying to prove my client's list of 551 names was legitimately acquired because his customers had never signed an opt-in form. The fact that they were bona fide customers wasn't good enough for the Spam police!)

Bottom line: Don't even think of spamming! If you want to send bulk email, don't try it yourself. Use a service. And it's not enough to be honest. Be prepared to prove it.

As with locks, Anti-Spam laws only keep honest people honest. And annoyed. Real spammers are way ahead of the posse.

(Update: I wasn't happy with MailChimp. A friend recommended I try Mad Mimi instead. If you've had experience with them, please let me know what you think. Stay tuned...)

1 comment:

  1. This is a greater problem than most people realize when they're sending out emails.

    I've found that iContact and Aweber are a great way to get emails out and if there's ever any problem then their service reps will help you out immediately.

    When I would market for smaller businesses I would often come across people who were still using free email programs or even their standard personal email address to send out business emails.

    They would tell me that email marketing doesn't work for their customers. But what they didn't realize was that most of their emails were never delivered to their customers.

    It's almost impossible to run an email marketing campaign without a good service provider. Not to mention that your email address, domain names, websites, and company can get blacklisted. When that happens there's almost nothing that will boost your delivery rates.