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Beyond the laws

By using this software you agree to follow our specific permission policy, and in this page we’ll discuss some of the common situations where permission is gathered (or not!).

While the CAN-SPAM laws are important, we don’t feel they go far enough. Our definition of spam goes beyond the laws in most countries; Spam is any email marketing you send to someone who hasn’t given you their direct permission to contact them on the topic of the email.

Does this count as permission?

Here are a few of the most frequent questions about whether a list can be considered permission-based. Ultimately it comes down to being clear, and meeting the expectations of the subscribers. We can’t cover every possible situation, but often you’ll be able to extrapolate from these examples.

I bought (or rented) this 100% opt-in list from a reputable list broker

No chance, sorry. No matter what the list broker claims, or how legal it is, you cannot use any kind of third party list with this software. There is no situation where it would be allowed, and it doesn’t matter if you didn’t have to pay for it, it still doesn’t count as permission in this context. That goes for industry specific lists too, like Adbase for photographers. A purchased list is a purchased list.

Everyone signed up directly on a form in my store (or on my website at this address)

Perfect, that’s clear, direct permission and you are good to go. Just make sure you email people regularly (don’t leave it months before contacting them) and that you only send them what you promised you would. They probably didn’t sign up to hear how to vote for your nephew on ‘American Idol’.

We sponsored this tradeshow, and we got a list of everyone who attended

This is very common, but it doesn’t count as permission. Those people may well have agreed to hear from every vendor as part of their entry, but it isn’t explicit, direct permission to your company. It is not allowed to be used with this software, even if the tradeshow organiser tells you it is fine.

We sponsored this tradeshow, and people signed up at our booth to get our newsletter

Much better! Those people know who you are, and have shown their interest in hearing specifically from you. Don’t wait too long after the show to email them though, and make sure to mention their visit to your booth in the first email.

I have this list from a few years ago, where everybody signed up on my site / at my booth / in my store

Permission is like bread, it starts out great but goes stale quickly. If you haven’t emailed these people in the last year or so, they’ve probably forgotten about you, and you don’t really know if they are still interested. If it’s been between 6 months and a year, you should start with a simple reminder email, asking them to unsubscribe if they are no longer interested.

These are all paying customers from my store or site

That’s a good start, and if they are current or recent customers (within the last 2 years at the longest) then you are safe to assume an existing relationship.If it’s been longer than that and you’ve not been emailing them regularly, then it is a no go zone. Permission does not last forever – use it or lose it.

These are all paying customers from my poker site / adult site / pharmaceutical site

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Our deliverability and sender reputation are maintained in part by not allowing gambling, adult or pharmaceutical emails at all, even from totally legitimate businesses.

They all bought something from my eBay store

This is a special case – although they are customers, eBay shoppers just don’t expect to get email from the people they buy, their permission really is just for eBay to contact them.

So unless these people signed up directly for your newsletter, it isn’t allowed to be used here.

These people registered on my site or forum (and agreed to the privacy policy / terms of use)

That’s good, but it isn’t explicit opt-in. If they checked a clear box agreeing to receive your newsletter, then go for it. However, hiding a line in your terms and conditions or privacy policy about receiving email marketing, and making people agree to that is not considered opting-in.

We all know that most people never read those documents, so put the opt-in right on the sign up page instead, or you don’t truly have their permission.

We’re an employment agency and these are all of our candidates / employers

If your employers are paying for your services, that’s fine. However, candidates have not necessarily agreed to be added to your general mailing list (as opposed to being contacted about specific roles).

You’d need to have their direct permission before emailing newsletters to them, and that means a clear opt-in verbally or electronically, not just a line somewhere in their contract or in the terms of your site. If you have that explicit permission, then you are good to go.

I’m a member of the local chamber of commerce / real estate organization / football association and every member gets given the directory and is allowed to email to them

This is another situation where the permission just isn’t direct. Even when the organization itself says it is fine to be used, it doesn’t qualify as direct opt-in for this software, and so you can’t use it.

If you’ve talked to individuals and they have given you their direct permission, that’s still fine.

We ran a competition to win a “widget” and these are all the people who entered

Danger! Competition lists like this often cause a lot of spam complaints. If people gave their details just to win a prize, then the only thing you could email them about is to let them know they won the prize, or perhaps a one off email to announce the winner.

You don’t have permission to market to them on any other topic. Hiding a sentence about “you agree to be emailed forever more” in 8pt font in the terms and conditions just does not honestly count as permission. If on the other hand you have a ‘sign up for our email newsletter’ page or sheet, and offer a prize, then people are much more aware of what they are signing up to.

I just started this new company, and I am emailing all the customers of my current company

This is almost always not ok. Permission isn’t permanent and endlessly flexible – those people gave you permission in a particular context, relating to that company and it’s product or service. They did not sign up to hear about other companies, even if you are involved in them.

These people all contacted me through my website

Sending in a question or comment isn’t the same thing as opt-in permission. Even if your form says ‘send me more information’, that doesn’t mean you can add them to a marketing list, it just means you can send them specific information as requested.

Unless your contact form clearly lets people choose to also receive your newsletter, they have not given you permission.

These are all my friends, colleagues or family members.

It’s great you know so many people! However, you do still need to have their direct permission. That could be as simple as verbally asking them if it is ok to add them to your newsletter list. They probably won’t mind even if you don’t ask, but it still is not opt-in, and still not allowed.

They agreed to email via Facebook Connect

This one can be tricky, because Facebook Connect can be setup to ask for permission to email. However, it is permission for the Facebook application itself to send them email marketing, not for the company to add them to a newsletter or other list. We’d suggest a separate opt-in checkbox instead.

They are all my LinkedIn connections or Facebook friends or they ‘Liked’ my Facebook page

That’s an indication of interest, for sure, but it is not direct opt-in. They might want to have some connection to you but you can’t assume they want to be on your email marketing list unless they actually ask.

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