Permission is an important, but often misunderstood, part of email marketing.

Businesses that get it right and build permission-based email lists enjoy high open and click-through rates on their campaigns, and are able to drive significant levels of sales & revenue from their email marketing initiatives.

Businesses who get it wrong on the other hand, see low open and click-through rates on their email campaigns and miss out on potential sales & revenue.

In this guide, you’ll learn what permission is and why it’s an important part of your email marketing initiatives. You’ll also get actionable tips and examples on how to get permission to email individuals the right way.

Chapter 1

What is permission?

When it comes to email marketing, permission is the act of getting consent from a subscriber to send them commercial email marketing messages.

Generally speaking, there are two types of permission; implied permission and express permission.

You have implied permission to email somebody if you have an existing business relationship with them. This could mean they are a current customer, donate to your charity, or are an active member of your website, club or community.

If you don’t have implied permission to email a person, then you’ll need express permission to send them campaigns. Express permission is granted when somebody specifically gives you permission to send them email campaigns, likely by entering their email address in a subscribe form on your website, or entering their details into your in-store newsletter subscribe form.

Freshbooks is a brand that gets permission right and is a great example of how implied and express permission are different, but can work together as part of your overall email marketing strategy.

Freshbooks has tens of thousands of paying customers worldwide, and because these people are current customers, Freshbooks has implied permission to send them campaigns like the one below.

Freshbooks Email

For those that aren’t existing customers however, Freshbooks needs to get express permission to send email campaigns and attempts to do so on their website.

freshbooks build email list popupWhen people visit their blog, Freshbooks presents them with a popup encouraging them to subscribe to their email list in return for an eBook on business growth. By entering their email address in the box, people are giving Freshbooks express permission to send them email campaigns.

By leveraging both implied permission and express permission, Freshbooks is able to build a large email list that not only complies with global anti-spam laws, but ensures their campaigns get high open and click-through rates.

Chapter 2

Why permission matters

You might be wondering why any of this matters to you as a marketer, and why you can’t just send email campaigns to anybody you want to.

It’s a fair question, but there are a number of reasons why it’s important to only send campaigns to people who have given you permission to email them:

1. You’ll get better open and click-through rates

Research shows that the average open rates for email campaigns to recipients who have given you permission to email them is around 30-40%, while the average click-through rate is around 20%.

On the other hand, email campaigns sent to lists of subscribers you don’t have permission to email (I.e. because you purchased the list, or scraped the email addresses from the internet) have average open rates of around 2% and click-through rates of around 0.2%.

This means that by only sending to people who have given you permission to email them, you’ll likely get open and click-through rates 10x higher than if you were sending to a list of subscribers you had purchased or scraped from the internet.

2. You’ll get a better return on investment from your email campaigns

Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of your email marketing campaigns is pretty simple: It’s the cost of sending the campaign divided by the number of people that took your desired action.

If you’re sending to a list of subscribers who have given you permission to email them, you’ll get a significantly higher ROI than if you’re sending to a list of people you don’t have permission to email.

Let’s assume it costs you $100 to send a campaign to a list of 10,000 people, and your goal is to drive them to your website to check out your latest product.

If that list is made up of people you have permission to email, then roughly 4000 of them (40%) will open the campaign and roughly 800 (20%) will then click-through to your website. That’s an ROI of 12 cents per website visitor.

On the other hand, if this list is made up of people you don’t have permission to email, then roughly 200 (2%) will open your campaign and 20 (0.2%) will click-through to your website. That’s roughly $5 per website visitor.

This means that permission-based email lists have a 40x higher ROI than purchased or scraped email lists.

3. You won’t destroy your deliverability rates

Research shows that when you send campaigns to people you don’t have permission to email, the number of ‘mark as spam’ complaints you receive increases by 10x.

This is particularly bad as each time you send an email campaign to your subscribers, the big email providers like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail watch how your subscribers interact with those emails.

If they notice that a lot of people mark your emails as spam, they’ll automatically start sending your campaigns directly to the Spam folder. Not just for the subscribers who marked your campaigns as Spam, but for every one of your subscribers using their email service.

So to ensure your future campaigns actually make it to your subscribers inbox, make sure to only send email campaigns to people you have permission to send to.

Chapter 3

How to get permission to send email campaigns to subscribers

Now that you understand what permission is and why it’s so important to only send campaigns to people you have permission to email, let’s have a look at how to build a permission-based email list.

As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of permission; implied permission and express permission, and given the differences between them there are different tactics and approaches you can use.

Implied permission

As noted above, you have implied permission to email individuals if you have an existing business relationship with them, likely because they are a current customer, donate to your charity, or are an active member of your website, club or community.

The best way to build an email list of individuals whom you have implied permission to email is by integrating your customer database with your email marketing tool.

If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, this is easy. Campaign Monitor has native integrations with CRM systems like Salesforce and eCommerce platforms like Magento, so if your customer data lives in those locations it can be easily integrated into your Campaign Monitor account.

Similarly, through 3rd party tools like Zapier, you can easily connect over 500 different accounting, billing, eCommerce & CRM tools (including Xero, Quickbooks, Eventbrite, Shopify & more) and automatically import your customer data into your Campaign Monitor account.

Express Permission

In order to get express permission to email someone, you need to get them to explicitly opt-in to receiving email marketing campaigns from you.

There are many ways you can facilitate this. It could be through a newsletter subscribe form on your website, or it could be through an iPad app on the counter of your retail store.

Regardless of the method you use to you capture their email address, the key to successfully getting express permission is to be upfront about the fact these people are signing up for your email list and will receive emails from you.

The subscribe popup on cosmetics website Oribe is a perfect example of this.

oribe build email list exclusivesOribe make it clear that by entering your email address into the form you are subscribing to their email list and will be receiving email campaigns from them.

Contrast this with the below contest entry form, which asks subscribers to input their details to enter the contest but does not explicitly state that they would be added to an email list and sent email campaigns.

Contest Page in BrowserDespite potentially capturing a large number of email addresses through this competition, the organizers do not have express permission to send entrants any commercial email campaigns and therefore could not add them to their email list.

So when attempting to get express permission to send people your email campaigns, you must make it clear to them that by entering their email address in the form they are subscribing to your list and will receive campaigns from you.

Chapter 3

In conclusion

Ensuring you have permission to send campaigns to individuals is an important part of email marketing. Businesses that get it right enjoy high open and click-through rates on their campaigns, and are able to drive significant levels of sales & revenue from their email marketing initiatives.

Businesses who get it wrong on the other hand, see low open and click-through rates on their email campaigns and miss out on potential sales & revenue.

So to ensure you get the best results from the email marketing campaigns your business sends, follow the tips & information presented in this guide and focus on building a list of people you have permission to send campaigns to.

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