Permission-Based is The Only Way August 10, 2018, | Posted by erin

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Permission requirements are baked into every form of email marketing regulation that exists, globally, and for good reason: consumers flat-out don’t enjoy receiving tons of email messages they haven’t asked for. But while laws like CAN-SPAM in 2003 and the EU’s GDPR, which went into effect this year, have plenty of rules and guidelines for permission-based marketing--and while it’s become industry standard--there are some people who think it’s a good idea to skirt the laws in a variety of ways. At Site Impact, we’ve always been in favor of permission-based email marketing, and in favor of doing it the right way--and while we can understand the temptation to step a toe over the line in the sand, we’re going to take a moment to discuss what permission-based means, and why it’s important.

More than just legal trouble

Of course, the most compelling reason to abide my permission-based email guidelines is the fact that under existing laws, not complying can mean tons of money in fines and settlements. But there’s a stronger reason than that, even, for using permission-based practices with your email marketing campaign:

They work much better.

It can seem tempting to try and work around the guidelines--by sending emails to addresses that have requested to unsubscribe before the deadline arrives, for example, or sending an email that you don’t strictly speaking have permission from the recipient to send. But study after study after study shows that when people receive emails they’ve actually asked for and expressed an interest in, they engage with those emails more; and that means greater success rates--not just opens and clicks, but solid conversions as well. Breaking with these guidelines can have the opposite effect: instead of increased performance, you are likely to see lower performance on the campaign itself, and worse--your attempt might get you flagged as spam, and result in lower delivery rates from automatic blocks and spam filters.


Implied versus express permission

Under existing laws regarding permission-based marketing, there are two basic categories for permission: implied permission and express permission. Implied permission is a mainstay of many email marketing models; in essence, if someone has an existing business relationship with your brand--a previous purchase, a long-time customer relationship, etc--there is a certain level of implied permission. That they maintain a relationship with you implies that they are interested in hearing news and receiving information on promotions.

Express permission is the “mother-may-I” rule: it’s permission that is given specifically by customers through an action they take; for example, signing up for your newsletter. Of course, regulations state that even with subscription, there are limits to what that express permission allows a brand to do. Increasingly in the industry, signups include a simple form with fields for customers to check off what particular types of emails they want to receive, and ones they do not.

While there are benefits to both types of permission, express permission gives your brand much more value. Recipients that expressly give you their permission to contact them are more likely to be engaged, more likely to convert, and more likely to become repeat customers.


So while it’s certainly possible to make short-term gains by skirting the edges of the law when it comes to permission-based email marketing, in the long term it not only creates more problems but can lead to diminishing returns on your future campaigns as your brand loses reputation with email platforms, along with losing customer engagement. Contact Site Impact and let us help you innovate within the laws to create permission-based email campaigns that really drive performance.