19 MAY 2011 0
Consider the following scenario: you attend an offline trade show as a representative of your company and exchange business cards with the organizers. Do you consider this an expressed permission to receive emails, snail mail and telephone follow-ups? The organizers would likely say that of course it is, you fully expect to be contacted; you were there to build business relationships. You might not agree, being sick and tired of incessant communication from business contacts that serve no purpose other than to annoy you. So which is correct?
Like most things, it's probably somewhere in the middle.
The CAN SPAM law, the only one that regulates how emails may be sent, doesn’t even require that the first-time collection of an email address be an opt-in. You are free to email anyone you ever had a business relation with. The only restriction is that if you had someone in your mailing list who unsubscribed and you want them back, you should get an affirmative consent. So technically the organizer in the aforementioned example has every legal right to email you.
But just because you can do this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
The CAN SPAM law is a pretty low bar that defines the border between an unethical approach and a criminal offence. Don’t take it as the guideline to a fully-fledged business ethic. Just because your recipients can’t sue for the (allegedly) unsolicited emails it doesn't mean they can’t report it as spam. It doesn't keep spam filters from blocking you (read more about how spam filters work here, here and here). Popular smart filters are crowdsourced, which means you don’t need a conviction from a jury to be flagged.
It’s pretty easy to run an email campaign that complies with the CAN SPAM act. Just offer your recipients a way of opting out and you are okay from a strictly legal point of view. The regulations are so loose that you can even email people you have never had a business relationship with and get away with it. However, the price may be quite steep and not worth the hassle. You will get:
There is hardly any difference between B2B and B2C marketing when it comes to the recipient. Who reads messages when you email a company? A person. Who can report you for spam? A person. Who buys your products? A person. Who opens the emails and clicks on your links? A person. You got the idea: treat your B2B and B2C customers the same and you’ll be safe.