I received an email recently from a well known writer in the IT industry with the subject line 'Please help save my marriage :)'. I recognised his name in the 'from' field, otherwise I would have deleted it immediately.
This is how the email began:
Dear Subscriber, One way or another, you have found your way
into my database of contacts over time, and I hope you have found value in the newsletters you have received. I am now appealing to you as a husband, at the "request" (you know what I mean) of my wife.
Obviously he considered that me signing up at some point for one of his newsletters gave him permission to email me on a completely unrelated topic. This is a mistake that our customers sometimes make too.
When we talk about having permission to email people we are talking about something quite specific. It's an agreement from your subscriber to receive emails about a particular topic, or related to a particular transaction.
Even when you have that permission, there are times when you might decide your message is not actually relevant to the reason people initially subscribed. It's about treating your subscribers respectfully, and not just emailing everyone you are 'technically' allowed to.
A recent post at ReturnPath raises the same issues, and suggests a few times when you should no longer assume you have a subscriber's permission to email them. So when you are explaining permission to your clients, it's important to help them understand that there is different types of permission, and it's always better to err on the side of caution than to risk spam complaints.
Don't forget about our permission handouts either, they are a helpful reminder of what constitutes permission, and what does not.