This week the Canadians enacted severe anti spam laws that can lead to millions of dollars in fines for small violations, even if you aren't emailing from Canada. Big corporations are spending tons of dollars on attorneys and compliance practices to make sure they don't get hit with penalties. While the large conglomerates prepare for the likely class action suits coming their way, the small business community is quaking in their folders since many small businesses can't afford to monitor the difficult requirements.

The issue of spam affects everyone and most have an opinion on how it impacts their day. I personally lightly filter my spam choosing instead to opt out and reduce it accordingly. I have often missed an important message with heavy spam filters so I generally review the junk file regularly just in case something crucial got trapped.

As a marketer, I cringe at the misuse of email marketing because it forces companies like Google to predetermine how you see emails even when you have subscribed to my column. And this Canadian law stimulated by marketing abuse, forces me to figure out where you live just to protective myself from an accidental violation that could wipe me out financially.

I can't help but wonder if there is a better way to manage all of this. Ultimately I put up with spam in the same way I suffer through TV commercials to enjoy good programming. Perhaps it's the responsibility of the spam receivers to stop responding so the abusers will have less reason to spam in the first place.

Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Take control.

I find Gmail's spam filter works better than any other so far, and it's why I read all my email in Gmail. It's also really easy to assign something to spam and then have future messages from the same sender go there automatically--or assign something as never spam so I don't miss messages I want. There are more reasons to love Gmail. Gmail's powerful filter utility lets me automatically forward emails on certain topics to my research assistant. And it categorizes promotional emails that aren't quite spam into a ghetto of their own. Minda Zetlin--Start Me Up


2. New restrictions are a small business advantage.

Because of their size and ability to be nimble, small businesses have a unique opportunity to take advantage of the new spam laws. Large organizations see these new laws and often default to a very conservative position implementing overly stringent compliance practices.  This can result in the complete loss in their ability to communicate with their customers. Small businesses, on the other hand, can easily and quickly implement technologies such as preference centers and opt-down pages that fine-tune the conversation with their customers. When a customer attempts to opt-out, the small business can take that opportunity to learn about what the customer would rather receive and craft messaging and content that better hits the mark. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

3. Learn to live with it.

While I know that advertising makes business go around, when it arrives in my email inbox in the form of spam, it's all I can do to keep from throwing my computer at the wall. I use Gmail as the back end for my business email address, and I have a personal Gmail account that I also use. I don't know how Google does it, but Gmail seems to catch a lot of spam before I see it--for the most part leaving me with just the legitimate messages that I want and need to see. The spam is dropped into its own folder, which I do check once a week or so to make sure an important message didn't get there by mistake (they sometimes do). And if an occasional spam message gets past Google's filters and into my inbox, I can flag it and chances are I'll never see anything from that sender ever again. If I were king, I would ban spam, but I'm not, so I'll just learn to live with it--like everyone else. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

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