Most email sent by estate planning attorneys has to answer to a pretty high authority–the local or state bar association. Every professional practice that sends emails is required to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, a law from the Federal Trade Commission that regulates what kind of information can be used in emails, from the header to the subject line and the content in the body of the email.
The majority of estate planning and Elder Law practices are prudent about their email campaigns, but there are exceptions. You should always play by the CAN-SPAM rules. Some of these are best practices that you should be following whether they are legal or not: they are good marketing practices. Here’s what you need to know:
CAN-SPAM rules apply to what appears in the header, and that means “From,” “To,” and “Reply To.” The email has to come from your domain name and the email has to be from someone in your organization. It can’t come from a cloaked secret email with an unaffiliated email address. Think of the last time you receive a bona fide piece of spam. Chances are you knew it was spam because some of these elements seemed fake.
Make sure your subject line reflects what’s in the body of the email. Note that there’s a difference between being clever and being spammy. There may be a few groans, but no one will mind if your subject line attempts a bad pun or humor that’s so awful it’s funny. But if you use a misleading subject line, or appear to be offering something that is not included in the email, you are coming close to the spam line.
Include information about your physical location. Your message is required by law to include a postal address for your practice. A street address should be used for your office.
Give recipients a way to opt out of your email in the future. Most email systems do this, otherwise the companies (like Constant Contact or Mad Mimi) would be out of business. If the system you are using does not have the ability to automatically block emails from those who do not want to receive them, you are courting trouble.
Remember that certain subject lines are going to bounce your email right into the spam filter. That includes words like “Free,” or “Cheap,” using capital letters, or too many exclamation points or other kind of punctuation marks.