[Tips & Tacos 013] Are your email subject lines illegal?

Nov 2, 2021 | Tips and Tacos

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through Twitter I came across a very unscrupulous email marketing tactic by a well-known marketing influencer. Apparently, someone on their email list screenshotted their email inbox to show a very deceitful email subject line that appeared to be from Stripe.

In the digital world, we call this type of practice clickbait! But don’t get me wrong. Clickbait isn’t necessarily a negative thing when used correctly. Let’s face it. There are thousands of brands competing for your customer’s attention. The best subject lines win, period! But where do we draw the line? When it becomes illegal!

The Federal Trade Commission aka the FTC created the CAN-SPAM Act, which establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.

The quote below is verbatim from the FTC’s website;

Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $43,792, so non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.

As you can see, the sender in the screenshot email violated both of the above requirements. And I can only imagine if they’d go this far then they probably have no problem violating others.

So what if a $44k fine doesn’t scare you into following the CAN-SPAM act? Even if your subscribers don’t report you to the FTC, they’re still not buying what you’re selling!

Nobody likes to feel finessed or played. And that’s exactly how your subs feel when you’re dishonest like the sender. Even if they opened your email, they’re unlikely to buy because the CTA (call-to-action) was not their intention when they clicked the email.

On top of this, your subs will likely unsubscribe and report your domain to your email service provider (esp). When you get too many complaints, it affects your deliverability and may even violate the esp’s terms of use.

Trust – you don’t want those problems! However, this is what you can do to get higher open rates and conversions with integrity:

  1. Segment your list. Every customer doesn’t have the same problem. Use email opt-ins and/or lead magnets that speak to different customers’ problems. Be careful not to send all subs the same emails, but instead segment future emails based on what they opted-in for. Read this article by Chris Lema for more insight on segmentation.
  2. Write your subject lines after writing your emails. I don’t know why or how but this just works. My theory is that after writing you’ll find words in the email that ties it all together. If that doesn’t work then use Active Campaign’s email subject line generator.
  3. Delete cold and inactive subscribers. Most ESPs make you pay per subscriber. There’s no need of holding on to dead-weight subs that never open your emails. ConvertKit wrote a great tutorial on how to do this with their software but it can easily be replicated on any other esp.
  4. When you need a little inspo for writing or designing really good emails, use reallygoodemails.com. This site is full of beautiful email designs and copywriting starters when you get stuck.
  5. Don’t leave your subs hanging after the initial opt-in. Warm them up with a welcome series. According to ActiveCampaign; the recipient is at their peak interest after first sign-up. Opens and click-through rates in a welcome series are often 2x higher than any other emails you send. Not sure what to say in your welcome email? Active Campaign has a welcome series you can steal (legally of course).
  6. Last but not least. Grab a copy of the Invisible Selling Machine by Ryan Deiss (affiliate link). I know this is an affiliate link but I read this book back in 2019 and even today, it’s still relevant. Not only does the author cover the welcome series but it also teaches you how to funnel your new subs into sales and conversions.

I could go on and on about email marketing, but this week’s tip is a lot longer than I expected. Nonetheless, I hope you found it helpful. If you have any questions on what was covered or something that you’d like to be covered, then don’t be afraid to hit that reply button. I’m all ears.

Tacos Forever,

Karmen K. | Director of Taco Relations

Meet the Writer

Karmen Kendrick

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