Plenty has been said about how to keep email marketing messages out of the spam trap, how to keep subscribers from clicking the spam button, and how to stay relevant. But underneath all this practical advice is a deeper question: What constitutes spam in the first place? Most people define spam as any marketing message they don’t want. Retailers on the other hand, operate under a much narrower definition. Let’s take a look at what constitutes spam both technically and practically, and how you can avoid earning the spam designation.

Sender Perspective

As a sender, your definition of spam differs dramatically from that of the recipient. While there will be some gray areas, most spam falls into these three categories:

  • CAN-SPAM act violationsThe CAN-SPAM Act sets forth guidelines for email marketing messages which include accurate from lines, unsubscribe mechanisms, opt-out compliance, and accurate headers. Messages that violate these guidelines are spam in the most technical sense of the word.
  • Unsolicited marketing messages—While not technically spam according to the CAN-SPAM Act, unsolicited messages (purchased email lists) are considered to be spam by most recipients and senders, rendering the usefulness of such lists virtually zilch.
  • Third-party affiliate messages—You may have a check box on your email sign-up page that gives permission for third-party affiliates to send messages to that subscriber. But if the box is automatically checked or the recipient doesn’t remember signing up for such emails, these messages will also be considered spam.

Subscriber Perspective

It’s much harder to provide a concrete definition of spam from the subscriber’s perspective. Basically, if a subscriber doesn’t want a particular marketing message to appear in his inbox, he’s likely to hit the spam button and send all future messages from that sender to the spam folder. Spam, in the eyes of the subscriber, is any marketing message he doesn’t currently want, even if he initially signed up to receive your emails.

It’s All About Relevance

Because subscribers take such a broad view of spam, it’s up to email marketers to gain a subscriber’s trust so he’ll keep reading their messages. The most effective way to do this is to make your messages relevant. If a subscriber knows that your content will provide something that benefits him—information, discounts, or special offers—he will look forward to receiving your messages rather than deleting them or designating them as spam.

At eConnect Email, we have years of experience helping our clients stay out of spam traps. Use our subscriber list management tools, segmentation options, and design templates to create email messages that will keep your subscribers wanting more.

About James Trumbly:
Director of Business Development for eConnect Email, an email marketing software company. James enjoys spending time at the beach and traveling in his free time. Follow him on twitter @eConnectEmail