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November 8, 2010

Can-Spam Violation or Creative Marketing?

In a number of industries – generally those that have participated in cross promoting each others product launches and promotions – email open rates are down… way down!

As a result, marketers are trying some – shall we say – “creative” strategies to get their emails opened.

Now, I’m all FOR creativity in marketing, but when you cross the line of ethics and violate Can-Spam laws, you should be blocked. It’s people like that who make it harder for the legitimate marketers to get their subscribers to open up their messages and read them.

It’s marketers like this who make it harder for 3rd party email providers and hosting companies to get legitimate emails through for their customers. More and more, we’re seeing people trying to trick their subscribers by sending messages that appear to be from 3rd party companies.

A recent trend we’ve seen involves a well-known company called GotoWebinar.

Now, before I go into details about what unethical marketers are doing, I need to clarify. It is not GotoWebinar that is engaging in deception. It is people that are using their service. If you’ve ever used GotoWebinar, you probably know that they send a reminder to everybody that registered for your webinar PRIOR to the start time. However, what some marketers have started doing is trying to *trick* their subscribers into thinking “Go to Webinar” has sent out a reminder.

Let me explain…

First things first, there are several “From” fields when you send an email. We’re going to look at the following 3 for the purposes of this article:

. From Name . From Email Address . Reply to Address

From Name

The “From Name” is what appears in the inbox. In other words, “Bob Smith” or “Southwest Airlines”.

When the subscriber scrolls through their email inbox, they can quickly decide if they want to read the message, delete the message, or hold it for later based on this “from” name.

From Email Address

This is actually where the email address is being sent from. This could be or

Reply To Email Address

This is where any replies would be sent if the subscriber hit the reply button in their email.

So what does this have to do with our marketing and why should we care?

Well… according to Can-Spam (and common sense good marketing practices), you CANNOT intentionally mislead your subscribers. And if you use a “From Name” like “Gotowebinar Courtesy Reminder”, you are misleading your subscriber. (Yes, I recently received several emails like this for a product launch that I wasn’t interested in nor was I participating in).

If you engage in these behaviors, and get blocked or banned, or anything else for that matter… you deserve it!

You should be focusing on what you can do to legitimately get people to sign up to attend your webinars. Offer better content. Offer a special prize or bonus. Give a reward for attendance. There are a lot of choices that are better than intentionally trying to mislead your customers.

What’s worse is that in that email I received, they formatted it to “look” like it came from Gotowebinar.

They did this to encourage me to click through and to listen in on the webinar, hoping I’d not realize that I’d never intended to participate.

In fact, when I further looked into the message, I found that it originated on a well-known 3rd party provider. I also found out exactly who was sending the email. (Remember the “from email address”). So… in a nutshell, this tactic obviously didn’t work.

In fact, when enough people complain about this guy (and his affiliates), chances are he’s going to have trouble with the company he’s using to send email and he’s going to cause other people, that are using the same system to send their emails out, to get blocked.

There is good reason that practices like this are against the can-spam laws, and it’s actually helpful for us, legitimate marketers.

It’s time to stop resorting to trickery and learn to market effectively. People like this hurt email deliverability and effectiveness for everybody.

What’s worse is that if you’re using a 3rd party provider to send out mass email messages to your list, you need to be concerned that other people aren’t following these practices.

There are only two real safeguards against this:

1. Follow Can Spam Laws in your own marketing; and

2. Host your own email on your own server.

Otherwise, you never know what shady marketers are doing that can affect your deliverability overall.

All Rights Reserved Email Delivered helps business owners FINALLY take control over their email marketing. ==>Download your free email deliverability and email marketing white-papers at

Heather Seitz is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and business strategist. She is the creator of customized email marketing tools for online business owners… by online business owners.

3 Responses to “Can-Spam Violation or Creative Marketing?

    I enjoyed this article and it’s very dead on target. Our company handles eblasting for several of our clients and very early on when we first started we had a major crisis on our hands. Our customer wanted to market to a list of opt-in’s they had gathered through an affiliate network. They wanted to have us send the email and use which we went ahead and did. We learned very quickly that this was a BAD idea. Our own domain ended up being blacklisted by a dozen ISPs and email providers because several of the end users service had “return lookup” and it found that our static ip address did not match the From address’s domain. It took me almost a month to clear out all of the blacklisting issues and then we learned of the CAN-SPAM laws and adopted their principles.
    A third option you didn’t mention was that you could use a 3rd party AS LONG AS that entity identifies itself as the sender. This is easily accomplished by setting up an email address for the purchaser (say Smith Agency for example) in your own domain, i.e. Then in the closing footer of the email have a clear statement that the email was “Sent by Your Company Name on behalf of Customer’s Company Name” and have your local address below it. This falls completely within the guidelines of the CAN-SPAM laws as well as protects all entities from blacklisting because it’s all legitimately setup and clarified.

    avatar Michelle says:

    Well thought out article Heather. When I started reading, straight away I thought of the hundreds of emails I get every day and how long it takes me to sort through the rubbish. Even though most of it is legit, I recommend marketers consider that people are being bombarded with email sales letters and they should stop sending so many ‘sales’ emails out. Think about a ‘quality’ email newsletter once a month instead. Then maybe, just maybe, we may actually read it!

    avatar anonymous says:

    Spam is mostly not a problem for me, because I don’t publish my email, and I am careful with the services i register for.

    The only spam I get is from Site Pro News. Lots of it.

    I am not a registered user of this site. I have not given my details, and I am not stupid enough to click any unsubscribe links.

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