Have you heard of permission-based email marketing (aka opt-in email marketing)? Do you know what it is and how it works? Why it’s important?

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” – Seth Godin

In the real world, breaking into someone’s house is illegal, we all know that. The same rule applies in the email marketing world. Thus, blasting emails to users’ inboxes, especially without permission, is a very bad idea – and poor practice, too. However, there is a way to ensure you are on the right side of anti-spam laws. Have you heard of permission-based email marketing?

In this article, we’ll cover the following permission-based email marketing topics:

  1. What are permissions?
  2. Defining permission-based email marketing
  3. How to obtain – and maintain – email permissions?
  4. What are the benefits of permission-based email marketing?

Are you ready to dive in?

Permissions: Definition and Types

A permission is a verifiable consent from a subscriber which businesses must obtain prior to sending email marketing messages. It expresses the users’ explicit agreement to be contacted via email. It also keeps you compliant with anti-spam laws such as GDPR, CAN-SPAM, and CASL.

Usually, permissions are classified into two types: implied and express.

Implied permissions are a less direct form of consent. They refer to contacts with whom you might have had a prior business (or non-business) relationship. Basically, a person has passed their email on to you but has not explicitly stated that they wish to receive marketing emails. The most common examples are registering for an account, purchasing a product or service, exchanging business cards or donations to charities. According to CASL, implied permissions expire – for purchase, it’s valid for 2 years; for an enquiry about a product or service, it’s valid for 6 months. Overall, if a user has not renewed their implied permission, it will expire.

Express permissions are a more direct form of consent. They refer to contacts giving explicit permission for you to send them email marketing campaigns. Essentially, it means people have opted-in into your marketing communications. Keep in mind that when you’re obtaining express consent you must be clear about your intentions. You must also let your recipients know that they can unsubscribe from your email communications at any time. The most common examples are filling in a signup form, clicks on links to confirm the subscription, checking a box during a purchase process or over the phone. Also, express permission does not expire, according to CASL.

Our advice, as well as a best practice, is to get permission prior to adding contacts to your email lists. Asking for consent shows people that you respect their privacy.

Defining Permission-Based Email Marketing

Since we’ve already covered permissions as well as the different types, we’d like to clear up what permission-based email marketing actually is.

As you’ve probably guessed, permission-based email marketing, also known as opt-in email marketing, is pretty much precisely what it sounds like. It’s a method for businesses to obtain explicit consent from users in order to send them marketing emails. If you are GDPR compliant – which you should be if sending into any EU country – you need explicit acknowledgement from the user that they want to receive marketing emails from your company

After all, according to the stats, 77% of users prefer receiving permission-based promotional messages via email vs direct mail, text, phone or social media. Thus, making sure you’re obtaining permissions before your email blast is a definite must.

If users have not given their permission (opted-in) for your email communication, there is a high chance they will report your emails as spam. If they do so, enough spam reports will get your emails filtered and your IP blacklisted. Of course, there is a way to prevent having your emails blacklisted, however,  the best solution is ensuring everyone on your email list is there because of their explicit desire to receive your marketing emails.

One of the best ways to guarantee your subscribers consented to your marketing emails is the double opt-in process. This form of opt-in comes in two steps. The first step is when a user submits their email address to a signup form or App registration page. The second step comes after the initial request has been received and the user gets a confirmation email where he/she needs to give the explicit permission to be subscribed to your email list in the form a clicking a ‘verify’ or ‘confirm’ button.

How To Obtain (and Maintain) Email Permissions?

If you want your email marketing strategy to be successful – which we are certain you do – it’s important to build an audience that wants to hear from you. But, how do you do that? 

Here are nine tips on how to obtain – and maintain – email permissions we find very helpful:

  1. Get email addresses the correct way. Either by implied or express consent, make sure you have the user’s permission to add them to your email list.
  2. Be straightforward on the signup form. Ensure that people know what type of content they’ll be receiving and an indication of how often.
  3. Make sure users can opt-out (unsubscribe). People’s interests change. Therefore, it’s very important to make it clear to your recipients they can opt-out (unsubscribe) at any time.
  4. Respect your recipients’ privacy. Trust goes a long way when someone is considering joining your email list. Thus, your privacy policy should be clearly posted. It’ll add credibility not only to your emails but your company as well.
  5. Ensure your contact’s info is up-to-date. Subscribers change ESPs, jobs and email addresses and you might be the last to know. So, periodically ask for updated information.
  6. Make sure you’re not overwhelming your recipients. When subscribers bestow upon you the privilege of communicating with them make sure you are not doing it too often. According to the stats, 78% of people unsubscribe from brands’ emailing lists because they send too many emails.
  7. Monitor your inbox for unsubscribe requests or complaints. Occasionally subscribers will reply to your email blast instead of using the unsubscribe link. Hence, monitor your inbox and make sure you take action on any grievances or removal requests.
  8. Pay attention to your email campaign reports. Always pay attention to the unsubscribe rate in your reports. If you’re losing over 0.5% of your subscribers per month, you know you have to make adjustments to content, frequency or both.
  9. Never, ever buy email lists. Subscribers want to receive marketing emails from companies they’ve already signed up for, not unknown third parties. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by false promises of ready-to-buy email lists. It is important to remember that permissions are not transferable.

Permission-Based Email Marketing: The Benefits

Have you heard the phrase “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”? When it comes to email marketing, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The ramification of sending even one unsolicited email greatly exceeds any possible benefit you can gain. It affects not only your reputation but it can result in hefty fines as well.

Here are a few of the top benefits of permission-based email marketing:

  1. Better engagement results. Users who’ve given permission to receive marketing emails are more likely to open and click-through in the emails they get.
  2. It has a great ROI. Calculating the ROI of your email campaigns is pretty simple – it’s the cost of sending the email divided by the number of people who took the desired action. Permission-based email marketing has an average ROI of $44 for every $1 spent and a median ROI of 122%. Note that permission-based email lists have a 40 times higher ROI than purchased or scraped email lists.
  3. Complies with anti-spam laws and creates less spam risk. Permission-based email marketing is the best way to be on the safe side of the anti-spam laws. It also prevents users from marking your emails as spam since they’ve given you permission to email them.
  4. Strengthens trust in your brand. By using email lists which are compiled of users who’ve given you consent to contact them, as well as ensuring they can unsubscribe at any time, you are solidifying a relationship based on trust. Your subscribers trust you’ll send them valuable content (ex. special offers, discounts, guides, ebooks, etc.) without abusing the privilege of emailing them and they trust you’ll care about their privacy.
  5. Adds relevance to your subscribers. With permission-based email marketing, you can learn more about your recipients during the signup stage (ex. First name, last name, company, address, telephone, industry sector they work in, etc.). That means you have the opportunity to personalise your email message based on the subscriber’s information. By monitoring your email campaign reports, you can group subscribers based on their similar interests, behaviours and traits which will allow you to send each group more relevant content. This is known as email segmentation.

Final Thoughts

At its core, permission-based email marketing is about respecting your subscribers whilst also following the anti-spam rules and regulations. It is a fundamental element of each and every successful email marketing strategy.

However, a successful permission-based email marketing strategy doesn’t stop with only obtaining permission though. It requires maintaining those permissions, setting expectations, allowing subscribers to manage their preference at all times, providing them with the option to unsubscribe easily and, most importantly, continuously provide value.

In short, permission-based email marketing is the best way to build a trusting relationship between your company and the customers. It allows the customer to feel in control of their relationship with your brand – by giving their consent – and it gives your business numerous benefits which will drive significant levels of sales and revenue.

Nonetheless, businesses who get it wrong will see the opposite – low open and click-through rates on their marketing emails. They will also miss out on potential sales and experience a poor ROI. You don’t want to be one of those businesses, do you?

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