Stop! Do you have permission to send that email? 

“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” – Andrew Davis

If you’re unsure about your permission-based email marketing process, you may be heading for trouble. Changing regulations and subscriber expectations mean you really have to prove you have consent to contact everyone on your emailing list.

In this article, we’ll explain the following aspects of permission-based email marketing:

  • The difference between implied and express permission
  • Why you need to get permission (potentially more than once)
  • What happens if you don’t follow the rules

Let’s dive in.

“I have no idea why I’m getting this email but I’m sure glad I did. I guess I’ll just go ahead and make a purchase” said pretty much no one, ever. 

The first rule of permission-based email marketing is simple: make sure the person you’re emailing wants your emails. And that means getting their permission.

Implied vs Express Permission

There are two types of permission when it comes to emails.

The first is implied permission. 

This means that you haven’t directly asked the recipient if they want to sign up to this particular email campaign or to your marketing emails as a whole. However, you have a pre-existing relationship with them that means it would be reasonable to assume it’s okay to reach out. 

For example, once someone has made a purchase from your site, it’s reasonable to take it as implied that you have permission to email them in the future. That could be with follow-up content explaining how to use their product, or it could be with offers on similar products. Either way, they’ve given you their email address to make a purchase and, unless they unsubscribe, it’s fair to follow up.

If you don’t have implied permission, you need express permission.

This is when someone states explicitly that they want to join your mailing list, or gives you their email address in full knowledge that you will send them marketing emails. Typically these are email addresses that you collect using a sign-up form on your website, in exchange for gated content, from in-store sign-ups and so on. Whatever your method, the important thing is that you make it crystal clear that you’ll be using that email address to send out marketing emails.

Does Permission Expire?

Yes – sometimes. 

If you have a person’s express permission to contact them, this will never expire. Well, unless of course, they unsubscribe (and here’s why you should make that easy for them). Bear in mind, though, that you may be asked to prove you have express consent at any given time, so make sure your record-keeping is top-notch. 

If you only have implied permission, it’s best not to push your luck. Under Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), implied permission expires after two years. If you don’t manage to get their express permission to keep emailing them before your time is up, you’ll need to take them off your list.

This rule applies both to Canada-based companies and to any business that has Canadian subscribers on its mailing list. Also, in theory, it applies even if a non-Canadian person receives a marketing email from a non-Canadian company while they are in Canada.

As such, it’s best to presume that this law applies to you and to make sure you don’t breach it.

Using a top email marketing platform like EmailOut means you can track and view subscriber sign-up dates and methods. That means you know at a glance whether any given email address gave express or implied permission to email them. It also tells you whether you’re coming to the end of your communication window. In other words, it’s easy to stay CASL-compliant.

What Happens if You Don’t Get Permission?

If you don’t secure permission for your emails, there can be some pretty serious consequences. 

CASL regulations allow for fines of up to $10million for breaches. Companies that fall foul of GDPR rules governing transparency and use of data without consent have also been hit with huge fines.

Even if you evade regulatory action, emailing people without permission kills trust. You will find that open rates and CTRs stagnate. More and more people will label your emails as spam, dragging down deliverability. You could even end up on a blacklist.

It simply isn’t worth the risk. You’ll grow your business far more effectively by emailing people who actually want to hear from you. Make sure you get permission from the start – and keep hold of it, by giving your recipients plenty of chances to opt-out if they wish.

Sign up for an email marketing platform that makes compliance easy.

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