Browse by...
Home Resources GUIDES

Table of Contents

Introduction

Article first published March 2016, updated April 2019

Permission is an important 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 and revenue from their email marketing initiatives.

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

Read on to discover what permission is and why it’s an important part of your email marketing initiatives, as well as actionable tips and examples on how to get permission to email individuals the right way.

Chapter 1

What is permission?

Permission is the act of getting consent from a subscriber to send them commercial email marketing messages.

There are generally 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 receive express permission to send email campaigns and attempts to do so on their website.

freshbooks build email list popup

When people visit their blog, Freshbooks presents them with a pop-up 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

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%.

However, email campaigns sent to lists of subscribers you don’t have permission to email (i.e,. because you purchased the list or simply found the email addresses on the internet) have average open rates of around 2% and click-through rates of around 0.2%.

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 people who did not subscribe.

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 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.

Imagine that 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.

However, 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.

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 spam complaints you receive increases by 10x.

This is particularly bad because, 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 for every one of your subscribers using their email service.

So, to ensure your future campaigns make it to your subscribers inbox, be 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

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

Implied permission

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.

ESPs like Campaign Monitor have native integrations with CRM systems like Salesforce and e-commerce platforms like Magento, so, if your customer data lives in those locations, it can be easily integrated into your ESP account.

Similarly, through third-party tools like Zapier, you can easily connect over 500 different accounting, billing, e-commerce, and CRM tools (including Xero, Quickbooks, Eventbrite, Shopify, and more) and automatically import your customer data into your 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 receive their email address, the key to successfully getting express permission is to be upfront about the fact that they are signing up for your email list and will receive emails from you.

The subscribe pop-up on cosmetics website Oribe is a perfect example of this.

oribe build email list exclusives

Oribe makes 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 Browser

Despite 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 into the form, they are subscribing to your list and will receive campaigns from you.

Chapter 4

How GDPR affects permission

The EU’s Global Data Privacy Rules (GDPR) marked the first major instance guidelines in this scope. With the fast growth of the internet and the exponential increase in data shared online, these rules were developed to combat spam, unwanted solicitation, and even data theft.

GDPR enacts some pretty important rules for the future of email marketing and digital communications in general. Opt-in email marketing will become more important, as permission takes priority as one of the main things marketers must consider before adding a subscriber to their mailing list.

Users now have the right to access their personal data and know how it is being used. They can also withdraw their consent, transfer their data to another service provider, and require companies to inform them about the data they gather.

These aren’t the only measures GDPR changes; now users can have their information corrected, restrict processing, object to data processing, and be notified about any data breaches that affect them.

With all these factors in play, it is more important than ever to consider the concept of permission. Users must opt-in voluntarily so they know how their data is being used and so their consent is explicitly given.

In the past, it was possible to simply add users to a general mailing list even if they signed up for something else that had nothing to do with email. Now users must actively check a box to opt in for email newsletters.

How GDPR affects permission.

Source SuperOffice

This is one of the most popular GDPR opt-in email examples. It can come in many forms and be used by any organization. The only major change is users are signed up based on their own decision to opt in, rather than as a decision by the sender from some other action the user took.

The concept of double opt-in emails is also becoming more important.

What is a double opt-in email?

This form of opt-in email marketing is a double-guarantee that the subscriber consented to give their permission. The double opt-in means that a user’s first opt-in comes when they submit their address to a web-based form.

The second opt-in comes after the initial request is received, and an email is sent to confirm this subscription. The user then opts in again to confirm their decision, providing a double-guarantee that permission was obtained.

This form of opt-in email marketing is a double-guarantee that the subscriber consented to give their permission. The double opt-in means that a user’s first opt-in comes when they submit their address to a web-based form. The second opt-in comes after the initial request is received, and an email is sent to confirm this subscription. The user then opts in again to confirm their decision, providing a double-guarantee that permission was obtained.

Source Upworthy

The above example would constitute the first opt-in, and, when users received the confirmation email, it would have another opt-in request included. Simply checking the box to sign up would not make the user a subscriber. It would only give them the ability to receive the second opt-in request.

Opt-in email marketing is a way to protect user privacy and protect senders. By offering the double opt-in precaution, companies ensure they have the necessary permission to free themselves from costly liabilities.

Chapter 5

Wrap up

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 and revenue from their email marketing initiatives.

  • Permission matters more than ever in email marketing
  • Opt-in emails are a great way to protect yourself from liability
  • Double opt-in emails can be the best way to guarantee you have user permission

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

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

Straight to your inbox

Get the best email and digital marketing content delivered.

Join 250,000 in-the-know marketers and get the latest marketing tips, tactics, and news right in your inbox.

Subscribe

Get started with Campaign Monitor today.

With our powerful yet easy-to-use tools, it's never been easier to make an impact with email marketing.

Try it for free
Contact Sales
×