b2b_email.jpgMore than a decade after the passing of the CAN-SPAM Act, consumer-facing companies are well-versed in email compliance policy. They’ve even established a list of CAN-SPAM best practices that go beyond compliance, and differentiate the more consumer-friendly brands from the rest of the pack.

Meanwhile, B2B email compliance still seems to confuse or intimidate some sales and marketing teams. Many business-to-business companies are doing more than they have to, while others are missing basic, required elements that every commercial email needs to contain….

Is your B2B email program making any of these compliance mistakes?

Waiting for opt-in permission

As a B2B sender, you don’t need express permission to email a prospect. You don’t need it from a legal standpoint, and—some experts argue—you shouldn’t wait for it, even from a customer relations/reputation standpoint. The point is up for debate. According to Ruth P. Stevens, a Columbia Business School instructor, “your business customers generally would prefer the reverse: an opt-out arrangement in which you send them messages unless they say ‘stop.’”

Just keep in mind: Opt-in permission is a completely different story in Canada, Australia, and the UK. If your customer base extends to those locales, you are required to have  a firm opt-in consent policy… and include unsubscribe links, as well.

Failing to include an opt-out mechanism and a physical address

What’s that you say? An opt-out mechanism?  But I’m not a marketer; I’m a salesperson. I send emails from my Outlook account…

Doesn’t matter. If you’re sending unsolicited commercial email, you must include a physical postal address in your message. B2B salespeople may want to add the company address to their email signature, just to ensure it’s always there.

You must also provide a way for recipients to “unsubscribe,” even if you hadn’t intended on creating a multi-part campaign or an ongoing, newsletter-style conversation. Make sure your opt-out workflow can get through your SPAM filter. And whenever you receive an opt-out, you must honor it within 10 business days…PLUS share it with the rest of your company. Which leads us to…

Failing to scrub against a global suppression list

Does your B2B company maintain a global suppression list? Many don’t. Suppression lists are often associated with consumer marketing (i.e. lots of different people emailing on your behalf). But internally, your various teams and divisions are generating a fair number of unsubscribes on their own. It’s your responsibility to collect and honor them all.

So now you might be asking, doesn’t our ESP do all of this? The answer is yes and no. Email service providers can store the suppression lists that are created when you send emails through that particular ESP. But they don’t talk to other ESPs, company mail servers (like Outlook), or CRM platforms used for outbound sales emails. Aggregating opt-out data from all your email campaigns/tools requires a central repository that’s designed to deliver global suppression list management.

Being careless with purchased or rented email lists

When it comes to third-party lists, the rules are pretty clear in places like Canada and the UK. But the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t address the issue directly. This creates a bit of a gray area for sales teams that are thinking about buying or renting a targeted, B2B email list.

Technically, third-party lists are within the bounds of compliance—so long as senders provide opt-out links and scrub against their companies’ global suppression lists before deployment.

Still, purchased and rented email lists create other concerns and logistical hurdles. Some bulk mail senders (HubSpot, MailChimp) have acceptable use policies that prohibit purchased lists. Trying to sneak one below the radar may get your account shut down.

B2B companies should also be careful about distinguishing a reputable list provider and about selecting a list/target group that is truly aligned with campaign offerings. Companies should employ data hygiene services to scrub the list of any invalid address (these can still crop up on quality lists).

Even after all these caveats, proceed with caution. If too many of your B2B emails get marked as junk (and lots of messages sent to third-party lists do), your sending reputation may suffer. Eventually, certain ESPs may block you—and everyone else at your organization.

Looking for more advice on B2B email compliance or B2B sales email? Ask our experts!