Can We Email This List? How to Know if You SHOULD

For some reason or another, it seems like a new spreadsheet of email addresses shows up at least once a month in the form of a client email with a question -- "Can we email this list?"

There are several considerations here:

Legal Issues: CAN-SPAM says that you can only email addresses who give you permission. There are no restrictions against a company emailing its existing customers or anyone who has inquired about its products or services, as this constitutes a "prior relationship" under CAN-SPAM. Read the bill and interpret for yourself.

Politeness: If you send to new people and offend them, you'll do more damage than you could possibly do good by sending to an unknown list.

Wasting Energy: Generally, if I didn't ask for the email, I'll consider it spam. Often, it's just a waste of time to send to a random list of folks.

If you decide that there is a good reason to send to a new list of people who didn't specifically solicit your mass email, then follow these guidelines:
  • Send one message only inviting them to subscribe. Opt-in is always better than opt-out.

  • Let them know how you got their address, so they understand that it was a legitimate source.
Remember - if you're questioning whether you can use a list, the answer is probably that you shouldn't - whether you can legally or not.
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