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  • June 4, 2012

ISP Standards vs CAN-SPAM Compliance

CAN-SPAM compliance, as a very brief refresher, boils down to the "opt-out rule" - you can mail to me, but remove me if I opt-out. Otherwise, you will be in violation of CAN-SPAM. Responsys clients can read more on Responsys Share for guidance on CAN-SPAM as well as other deliverability and compliance related topics. US law requires CAN-SPAM compliance from all marketers. ISPs, and in turn some ESPs, require something more in the form of opt-in. 
Most of the major ESPs today, including Responsys, require senders (marketers) to have opted-in recipient lists in order to conduct email marketing campaigns over their platform. See our Permission Marketing Policy for more. Occasionally, we all see posts on various LinkedIn groups or other industry related forums from marketers or their legal departments who question the need to comply with a standard above what the law requires. As a deliverability-minded person, this makes me think one of two things - either there is a fundamental difference of opinion that may just be impossible to change, or they can still be helped and become better marketers with some education on the topic. I'd like to believe the latter. 
ere is what it boils down to: respect for your recipient's inbox.

The email inbox is prime real estate and ISPs have to protect their assets in order to retain clients and continue growing their services. The opt-out standard set by CAN-SPAM just did not live up to the expectations of the average email recipient. Therefore, ISPs had to evolve and set the bar higher in order to meet the needs and demands of their consumer. 
Many of the top ISPs now require you send only to opted-in subscribers, promptly remove spam complaints and unsubscribe requests, mail only to engaged subscribers and a handful of other best practice guidelines to help you establish a positive reputation and achieve good delivery rates. They lay out all the guidelines for you to follow right there, this is the only secret recipe for success that exists. 
The point is ISPs have not arbitrarily decided to tighten the reins and set these guidelines just to make marketers miserable. They are being pushed by the end recipient to provide a more optimized email experience. Some might call it a relatively young email industry going through a bit of self-regulation. For the marketer, this means a few things:

1. Understanding the latest ISP standards 

2. Adjusting your email program and practices to meet those standards
3. Most of all, respecting your recipient's inbox
The ISP is the gate keeper and the email recipients are the people living within. The gatekeeper can determine who to let in or not, but the residents all together carry the greatest influence. They are the crowd. "Win the crowd and you will win your freedom"...to the inbox.

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