Unsolicited Email Marketing Campaign Tips

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Perhaps you run a national-level nonprofit. Donations are your lifeline and donor list development is an essential staple for your business. But to be honest, many people may find it annoying to receive unsolicited calls asking for a donation during the dinner hour or being inundated with commercial email messages that need to be sorted.

All forms of direct marketing do involve communicating in unsolicited ways. However, sending spam emails will not help your business grow. Even worse, spam campaigns will hurt your reputation and could even get your internet business shut down.

Adherence to CAN-SPAM Laws

It is a legal requirement under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, enacted in 2004, that if your email is a solicitation, that fact must be clearly communicated, along with who you are and what you are soliciting.

In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission completed its first review of the CAN-SPAM Rule. which favored keeping the Rule, as it "benefits consumers and does not impose substantial economic burdens."

In all unsolicited emails, CAN-SPAM requires you to include a physical address and contact information for your business. You may not hide, alter, or use fake aliases or give misleading information in your to, from, or subject fields. You should also offer recipients a way to opt out of or "unsubscribe" to future messages.

In addition, if you do not receive a response to your initial email, you should not follow up with a second email, as the recipient is likely not interested. Also, if you want to know the open and click-through rate of any email campaign, choose a service that can track this information for you.

Keep Your Solicitation Mailing Lists Small

Unsolicited email lists should be small for two reasons:

  1. No business can legitimately have thousands of unsolicited leads unless they purchase lists, illegally harvest email addresses, or obtain them in some other unethical—or illegal—manner, which service providers understand.
  2. Large email batches draw the attention of service providers. If you start sending thousands of solicitations, you are likely to overload your own servers and your internet service provider's (ISP's) or web host's servers, and trigger spam filters on your recipients' email servers.

Reputable direct mail and email list service providers, such as VerticalResponse, routinely attempt to identify and eliminate spammers from their servers. If you start sending out a flurry of emails, you might be asked how you acquired your mailing list.​

Take the time to target specific recipients and send them a personalized message that is respectful, professional, and grammatically correct. This can increase the likelihood of your message being received and read.

Almost all types of ISPs have a right to restrict, rescind, or terminate your account privileges for abuse without offering a refund. Note that abusing your privileges is also a bad reflection on your service provider. And, if their servers get blacklisted as spammers because of your email activities, they will likely shut you down.

Get Your Leads Honestly

Taking leads from people you do not know is risky and can cost you money as well as your reputation. For example, you may send out a campaign based on a recently purchased list only to find that the email addresses are invalid or that the list was owned previously by another spammer.

It is illegal to use an automated means to collect email addresses from the internet. This includes websites, forums, blogs, or discussion lists. Doing so is in direct violation of CAN-SPAM Act laws.

Note that you can legally collect addresses manually, however, there is no way to prove your collection methods were honest. In addition, a recipient may feel their privacy was violated if you obtained their address because you are both members of the same forum, which can negatively impact your reputation.


As a business owner, it is important to understand current email laws, as well as have a respectful, professional process for reaching customers to ensure the most favorable response. An important part of this process involves sending a small number of emails, as well as obtaining and using valid email lists to target a specific group of consumers.