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One of your clients has just come to you with a really snazzy new subscriber list – a few-hundred email addresses – and is itching to have his regular monthly newsletter sent to these contacts. “Where did you get these email addresses?” you ask. “Oh, they’re from business cards I picked up at a trade fair”. What could possibly go wrong?

Declaring permission

Permission can be a minefield for both new and experienced email marketers alike. The problem is only compounded when clients bring along their own subscriber lists. Unless your client has explicit permission to send them email, a number of unfortunate situations can arise.

This is why at Campaign Monitor we have a strict anti-spam policy to ensure your list is legitimate. In short, there are some lists we will not accept, including:

  • Lists where your client does not have explicit, provable permission to contact the recipients in relation to the topic of the email being sent
  • Lists that have been bought, loaned, rented or in any way acquired from a third party – these include tradeshow and chamber of commerce type lists, where people have signed up to an organisation or group, not the individual sender
  • Lists which have not been contacted via email in the last 2 years – subscribers may have forgotten providing their details 2 weeks ago, let alone 2 years down the track, and;
  • Lists scraped or copy and pasted from the web.

We also have an approval process prior to sending your first large campaign. Have a look at our help topic to see how this works.

What happens if my client doesn’t have permission?

We can’t ensure that all contacts that are imported into subscriber lists have stated their consent to be emailed. In the case of your clients providing lists, make sure you read this handy reference to help you better check your clients have obtained permission. If it all sounds a little tricky, here are some good reasons why you should ensure your clients’ subscriber lists know what they’re in for:

  • Your client doesn’t want to be a spammer – Did you ever ask for all those ‘v1agra’ emails? Unsolicited email in any form is very poorly regarded and will jet junked… Or worse.
  • It’s a legal requirement – In the United States, the CAN-SPAM Act sets the rules for commercial email and serves to protect the rights of recipients. Similar rules exist across the world. Breaking these laws can be not only costly, but can damage your reputation… And business.
  • Your client’s campaign deliverability will suffer – These days, recipients are more frequently treating the ‘Report Spam’ button as the way to unsubscribe from an undesirable mailing list. If an excessive number of spam reports are received as a result of an unsolicited email being sent, then the domain, or IP from which the message originated can be blocked by email service providers and ISPs.
  • Everyone’s campaign deliverability will suffer – The problem gets infinitely worse when you consider how much email gets processed by our mail servers. All it takes is one rogue client to get our mail servers temporarily blocked, to the detriment of everyone who has sent a campaign around that time.

So, who pays the price when a campaign is sent to a subscriber list, without seeking the recipients’ permission first? The answer is – Everyone.

Starting on the right foot with new subscribers

Now you’ve verified that your clients’ new list is legitimate, you may not want to go gung-ho into emailing them at any time of day or night. Here are some smart ways to engage your new subscribers:

  • Consider an introductory email – Introducing the client and explaining how they received their contact details is always a safe way to start the relationship. After all, your new subscribers may have forgotten passing their details at the trade fair. This is also a great time to request that new subscribers update their preferences or other custom fields you may have. As always, subscribers should be given the opportunity to unsubscribe immediately.
  • Permission also covers frequency of email – If your client has asked new subscribers to sign up for a monthly newsletter, this does not give your client permission to email them updates on a weekly basis. Be honest and suggest they sign up to your other relevant mailing lists.
  • Take particular care with competition lists – A disproportionate number of spam complaints are the result of lists being sourced from competitions. Read this article on how to treat these lists.

Emailing your subscribers for the first time is like a real-life introduction – first impressions count, so take the right steps to ensure a harmonious and lasting relationship.


As you can see, gaining permission is not rocket-science if you understand the process from the get-go. Plus, it only makes sense – with a combination of best practice and an understanding of our approvals process, your client will be sending to their happy, responsive list in no time. Ignoring permission simply leads to a dead-end.

Are your clients permission-savvy? We would love to hear of your experiences, good and bad alike. Add them below as a comment, or send us your questions!

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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