As it is deliverability week, discussing the be-all and end-all of email marketing is essential: Consent (Permission).

What exactly IS consent?

Consent in email marketing is when someone gives you their email address with explicit permission to be added to an email list for the purposes of sending updates and/or marketing messages related to the company being given explicit permission to.

Consent CAN be revoked at any time, and when consent is revoked, it MUST be honored!

What constitutes consent?

Consent can be broken down into three main categories …

  • NO consent
  • Consent when certain criteria are met
  • Full consent

Let’s look at each in more detail …

NO Consent

  • Buying lists

Yes, this is legal in some places … For now.

However, it’s crucial to understand that both mailbox providers and the recipients of these emails, are not fans of receiving emails sent to a list that was purchased. The negative consequences of this practice can be significant.

Most mailbox providers and ESPs have strict policies regarding purchased lists. I discuss all of this in much more detail here.

  • Scraping lists

This is very much the same as buying a list, and everything mentioned in the previous point holds true.

  • Social media connections

Just because I accepted your LinkedIn or other social media request, in NO WAY gives you permission to now go and add my email address to an email list and start sending me bulk marketing messages. My connection to you on social media only grants you permission to communicate with me directly, 1 on 1, on that social platform, and nowhere else.

Consent only when …

  • I fill in your “Contact Us” form on your website

This, on its own, does not give you consent to add me to your mailing list … Unless … There is an unchecked checkbox saying that I agree to be added to your mailing list.

  • I buy something from your website

MOST companies, including BIG names, get this one wrong. When I buy something, and I give you my email address as part of the purchase, I only give you consent to email me about the specific thing I bought from you, not to now send me endless emails about new and/or different products, special deals, etc … Unless … There is an unchecked checkbox saying that I agree to be added to your mailing list.

Even though mailbox providers and ESPs cannot specifically determine that no direct permission was given here, user will vote your mail down by using the spam button, which can cause more of your email to go to spam or be rejected outright.

  • I signup for your webinar

You now have permission to send me email about the webinar, and the specific topic of the webinar, not all your other products and/or services … Unless … There is an unchecked checkbox saying that I agree to be added to your mailing list.

  • I fill in a paper form, for whatever reason, that also asks for an email address

Yes, paper forms are very much still used for things like doctor registration, hotel check-in, etc. When I provide my email address, it is again for 1 on 1, direct emails only … Unless … There is an unchecked checkbox saying that I agree to be added to your mailing list.

Are you seeing a pattern yet? ;-)

  • I give you my business card with my email address on

I am only giving you permission to email me directly, 1 on 1, in a non automated way, and not to be added to an email list … Unless … I am dropping my business card in a box to be entered into a draw, and there is clear notice given that all entries will be added to an email list.

  • I send you a direct email

You now have permission to reply to me, and send me new emails related to my original query … Unless … In the original email I sent you, I specifically requested that you add my email address to your email list.

Full consent

  • I fill in your newsletter signup form on your website

This is straightforward: you have a newsletter signup form on your website, and I fill it in and submit it. There is no ambiguity at all. I am explicitly giving you permission to send me your email newsletter and/or marketing messages.

This is a short list ;-)

Conclusion

It’s really simple: Do not send emails to that address unless you have explicit, provable consent.

As I have said before … Send emails that people want and expect when they want and expect it.