Federal statutes and regulations (i.e., the CAN–SPAM Act) prohibit unsolicited and/or deceptive marketing material from being distributed through electronic mail. Because of this, we need to ensure our employees, agents and brokers who send electronic mail advertising adhere to certain guidelines.
This advertising, or “commercial email,” is any electronic message that primarily acts as a commercial advertisement – by promoting a commercial product or service, or as an Invitation to Inquire about a product or service.
The CAN – SPAM Act makes it legal to send unsolicited commercial email, as long as those emails meet certain requirements. Employees, agents, and brokers advertising Mutual of Omaha’s products, services or websites must ensure their commercial emails meet the following standards.
All commercial emails must contain:
- Subject lines that don’t deceive or mislead regarding the content of the email
- A clear and conspicuous notice of the opportunity for the recipient to opt out of receiving the commercial email
- A clear and conspicuous return email address that allows the recipient to opt out of receiving future promotional emails
- A clear and conspicuous notice that the email is an advertisement or solicitation, unless the recipient of the email has already agreed to receive the email
- A valid physical postal address of the sender (i.e., Mutual of Omaha)
Employees, agents and brokers must not:
- Knowingly send unsolicited commercial email (following a grace period of 10 business days) to an individual who has opted out of receiving commercial email
- Use automated means to harvest email addresses from websites or online services that expressly prohibit sharing users’ email addresses
- Use automated means to create multiple email accounts to send unsolicited commercial email
- Illegally access inactive email or computer accounts to send unsolicited commercial email
Email that communicates with customers about previously existing transactions or business relationships are exempt from most of the Act’s provisions, provided they do not contain false or misleading subject lines, return addresses or sender information.
However, policyholders who have opted out of receiving future promotional emails cannot receive email that contains any advertisements or solicitations.
Common examples of exempt communications include:
- Explanation of Benefit forms
- Copies of policies
- Notices required by state and/or federal law
- Administrative notices
- Denials of precertification
Successful email “deliverability” means your message arrives in the recipient’s inbox as intended. “Failure” occurs when your message is either routed to junk/clutter folders or blocked by an ISP (Internet Service Provider). In order to ensure high deliverability, we:
- Employ a preference center which allows users to select what messages they’re interested in receiving
- Keep a clean, up-to-date list of active subscribers
- Comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, outlined above
- Send relevant emails that are interesting, timely, and aesthetically aligned with our brand
Sending quality email that your subscribers want to receive is the basis of a great sending (and brand) reputation. Ensure that your recipients want to receive your email by implementing a clear opt-in during the subscription process and strive to send relevant and interesting content. Also, make sure your HTML is properly formatted—poorly coded emails get caught in filters or don’t render properly.
How much email do you send? High-volume senders are a red flag, especially when volumes are inconsistent. Do you send approximately the same number of emails each week or month, or is your sending schedule all over the map? Consistent volumes based on subscriber preferences are a key consideration for ISPs.
Sending to even one spam trap or “honey pot” will instantly harm your reputation and cause deliverability problems. When you send to a spam trap (an email address activated by an ISP to catch spammers), it means you’re engaging in email address harvesting (an illegal practice) or your list hygiene practices are weak. Either way, ISPs aren’t going to deliver your email.
A good reputation also means that only a small percentage of your emails “bounce” back. Your email could be returned by the ISPs because the account is no longer active (hard bounce) or the mailbox is temporarily full or the recipient is out-of-office (soft bounce). If a lot of your mail is bouncing back, it means your subscribers aren’t engaged and you’re not keeping up to date with them. It also indicates that your list hygiene practices are not up to industry standards. Keeping your bounce rate low by implementing procedures to immediately remove email addresses that return “hard” bounces is essential.
Appearing on just one of the leading blacklists is enough to get you blocked by some ISPs. Senders with low complaints, who don’t hit spam traps, and who send email consistently generally don’t get blacklisted. However, if you do get blacklisted, having a good sending reputation will help convince the blacklist administrator to remove your IPs from their list.