Best Practices in Permission Marketing: How to Follow the Law & Respect Your Clients

Social media and email broadcasting have changed over the past few years, giving business owners who maintain an online presence so much to think about. Should I have a Facebook business page?  Should I start a Facebook group?  How often should I email prospective clients – and how often is too much?

These questions aside, there’s one thing that seems pretty cut and dry to me, and that’s permission marketing.  Permission marketing refers to the fact that you must have permission before you can send out information.

In Canada, the laws are such that it’s illegal to send emails to someone who has not subscribed and given you permission to do so.  In the United States, the CAN-SPAM Act sets similar laws, with penalties up to $16,000 if you do not comply.

Some of you may be new to marketing yourself, so to help you develop solid procedures that follow the laws and respect your clients, I’d like to share my own permission marketing best practices.

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PERMISSION MARKETING BEST PRACTICES

Just Don’t Do It – First and foremost, if you do not have someone’s permission (opt-in) to send them your newsletter, then do not do it.  It’s that simple. 

Unsubscribe Button – An unsubscribe button gives people an easy way to remove themselves from your email list. If you do not have an unsubscribe button in place, I recommend that you get onto a system that has one (like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp) immediately.  The quickest way to annoy a prospect is to make it hard for them to get off your list.

Notification Is Needed – If you do add someone to your email list, be sure to let them know in a separate email. For example, “Hey, I hope you don’t mind, I’ve added you to my email list.  But if at any time you’d like to be removed, just use the ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of the page.”

Initial Email – At my events we collect business cards for prize drawings and we do add these people to our email list. However, the first email to them clearly shows them how to hop off the list, no hard feelings.  In fact, we often encourage “unsubscribes” because it is not at all our intention to be a nuisance and our newsletter is most effective when it reaches interested parties.  I unsubscribe from about 10 newsletters a week (that I didn’t sign up for) so when people unsubscribe from my list, I do not take it personally at all.

Managing a Facebook Group – If you start a new group on Facebook, I would highly recommend NOT adding folks to your group without asking them first.  If you haven’t asked permission in Facebook or on other platforms, this is a sure fire way to annoy them.

Posting on Other People’s Walls – Again, on Facebook, a quick way to tick someone off is to use their wall for your own marketing purposes.  Someone’s wall is their space; do not invade it (unless it’s a genuine dialog with that person). The same rule applies to tagging 50 people in a photo who are not in your photo.  Ick, stop that!

I understand that this post may have made some of you a little uncomfortable. However, I believe I have shown how permission marketing is as much about respecting your clients and customers as it is about following the law. I value each and every contact on my list and hope that I don’t see many of you unsubscribe! But if you do, I understand and I wish you well on your journey.

Do you have any best practices or pet peeves about permission marketing? Share them with the community by posting a comment below.

  • marion grobb finkelstein

    Amen,, sister. It just makes good marketing sense to get permission. It also increases your open rates and click rates. My pet peeve is too many emails or posts per day or week. Ugh. Sure way to get me to unfollow and unsubscribe.

  • Patti DeNucci,

    Thank you so much for this post, Jane! So many online marketers – not just speakers, but lots of people/companies – violate both the legal, ethical and even just good social etiquette here. I have encountered just about every type you cite here. I am also infuriated by pop-ups and the online marketing copy that goes on and on and on, takes you down several rabbit holes, and never gets to the point. Or when it does, leads you into some nutty offer that you’d have to be crazy to take. Who teaches these insane techniques? Bravo to you!

    • speakerlauncher

      No doubt some marketers would say that the statistics show some of these things work, but I like to stay in line with my own values. And I value a less aggressive approach, although I do push the envelope on occasion.