Why would someone report me as a spammer?

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On occasion, when I talk with new prospects, I find out during the vetting process that they do not have permission to market to their entire database. They may be purchasing lists from sources they believe to be reputable or harvesting addresses from publicly available places. It is at that point where we begin discussing what it is to be a permission-based marketer. We talk about the perception of spam, and how it might affect their ability to deliver e-mail. The response generally is that they are not sending spam, there isn’t any adult, gaming or credit card offer in their e-mail. Of course, we all bristle even at the vaguest accusation that we are spammers.

Remember the definition of spam for end-users is the receipt of any e-mail message that they didn’t explicitly request. The content of a message doesn’t matter; the consent of the user is the factor that makes a message spam. The definition of spam is different for each user, so be as straight-forward as possible in the sign-up process. Be clear with people about what they will get and how often they will get it. People who are comfortable with your program’s honesty are much more likely to feel OK about unsubscribing from campaigns rather than reporting your message to the ISP as spam.

Please notice I didn’t refer to CAN-SPAM. The law is a low standard for any successful e-mail marketer. The CAN-SPAM requirements should be just a starting point. You should be more concerned with the requirements of real-world receivers and how they will treat complaints. The ISP or corporate e-mail teams are set up to protect the interests of their users, and the perception of those groups left by unwanted e-mail can’t and won’t be tolerated.

Kevin Senne is director of deliverability and strategic services at Premiere Global Services (

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