E-mail Databases in the Age of Spam (1,049 words)
If you plan to use your e-mail database for list rental purposes, explicitly collect permission for sending third-party e-mail offers. If you ask for multiple levels of permission, be prepared to manage unsubscribe requests at multiple levels. Keep in mind that customers may be annoyed at the concept of unsubscribing individually from multiple types of offers, because once they want to stop hearing from you, it usually applies to all types of communication.
From a permission standpoint, I treat my communications as if they were third-party mail, to make the process easier for recipients, and to take a more conservative approach when communicating with customers.
Maintaining Your Database
Handling of bounced e-mail and unsubscribe requests should happen in as close to "real time" as possible to prevent serious complaints. Many ISPs will "blacklist" you as a mailer if you continue to mail to invalid e-mail accounts, which in turn will prevent other valid mail from being delivered.
If you receive a spam complaint, respond to all parties immediately, and let them know that you're investigating the claim. Follow up within 24 hours, and supply as much information as possible about the recipient's request to receive information from you (on which you established the willingness to receive future e-mail communications). If you can supply the date the request was made along with the IP address, you'll be in good shape. Keep a careful e-mail trail of all your communications regarding spam with an ISP.
Depending upon the volume of e-mail you send, you should consider using an e-mail service provider, simply because these companies' business dictates that they keep up to date with the latest in privacy, develop good relationships with ISPs and understand how e-mail filtering technology is being applied today.
You'll also need a strategy for dealing with active versus inactive records. Don't dump old records since they may become instrumental for behavioral profiling or modeling, but databases also can become unwieldy if they're left to grow without "pruning." A database field used to indicate whether a record is active or not will easily solve this issue.