New year resolution 1 of 12 – get permission!

8 minute read

Welcome to your new year resolution 1 of 12.

On our January journey through the 12 topics that will significantly improve your email marketing it’s only right that we start at the beginning – that’s permission. Here’s how to get your permission credentials squeaky clean for 2015.


So why all the fuss?

Simple. We all hate spam. Permission is the one thing that separates great email marketing from spam. It’s the vital ingredient to any email marketing program and the principles of permission marketing should be at the core of your business.

What is permission?

Permission is a term coined by Seth Godin. He defined it as ‘…the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to receive them.’ Mr.Godin also coined the phrase ‘…turning strangers into friends and friends into customers’ – we think that’s an elegant summary of our objectives as email marketers.

In essence it means that you’ll be sending anticipated, welcome communications to a fully opted-in audience. In short, Permission is the ‘secret’ ingredient which will just make your marketing work.

Why is Permission important?

Firstly it’s the law. Unsolicited marketing is an increasingly legislated area and there have been several recent high profile prosecutions for negligence or abuse. If you are interested (and you should be) the details regarding permission are as follows.

You must get explicit permission from your recipient, unless…
• you obtained details via a sale, and
• you’re marketing similar products, and
• you offer clear opt-out available at point of collection, and
• you offer opt-out available in all emails sent, and
• your last transaction/contact was less than 12 months ago

Oh yes – you must include your company legal name, registration number, address & contact details in every message, and for anyone dealing with data we also strongly recommend that you register with the ICO (The Information Commissioners Office) as a data controller. It’s cheap and easy to do and then you comply with the 1998 Data Protection Act.

It seems like a long list but being legal is actually relatively easy. You just need a good data collection strategy and a few practical items in place.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, permission is a polite and appropriate way to treat your customers, after all you are asking for their most valuable asset – their time, and it’s only right that you ask first. Permission is all about trust. Establish trust and your audience will engage with your campaigns and buy your products and services, again and again.

How do you get permission?

Permission is a personal 1-1 relationship between you and your subscribers. It can’t be assumed, bought or transferred by a third party – so if you are thinking about buying data – PLEASE think again. In addition, it must be active permission (that is active opt-in, not failure to opt-out – a common misconception), and it has to be fresh. People have short memories so if you don’t act quickly don’t expect people to remember who you are or why they signed up to hear from you, even if it was a valid opt-in action.

So how do you get it? Again, it’s simple, just ask! But don’t just ask – sell it! Take a moment to explain who you are and how you can be of benefit. It’s important to set expectations. Tell your audience what you’d like to send and how often. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is.

Here are some things to consider.

Relationship is a two-way thing. You need to give people a clear reason to start a relationship with you, showing why their time and trust will be rewarded. Perhaps it’s the fascinating insights they’ll receive in your newsletter, or maybe it’s a discount voucher. Either way, give people an incentive to start the conversation.

Be clear about the terms of the relationship: when you ask someone to join your mailing list, be clear about why, and what they can expect. If you want to send a monthly newsletter, tell them about why they’ll find it interesting. If joining means that a sales person will call them, make that clear. Don’t hide things away in the small print and expect to get away with it – that’s not how you’d like to be treated, is it?

Be true to your word: once someone has signed up, deliver on your promises. If you said you’d send a regular email newsletter, make sure you do, and don’t be tempted to send out other irrelevant emails – before you take the relationship further, be sure to ask for permission first.

Don’t betray their trust: this is the most important principle of all. Your relationship with each subscriber isn’t transferrable to someone else; it can’t be sold or passed on. It’s between you (your brand) and that person. If you sell, rent or give away your list, you’ve violated that relationship and all trust that was given to you. Don’t expect to get it back.


So, your new year resolution number 1 is to get your permission credentials squeaky clean.

It’s probably the easiest of all of your 12 new year resolutions. Simple, quick, done.

Here’s a summary of a few actions to take:

1. Read some more on permission – become a permission evangelist
2. Review your current data – how was it collected, when was it last used?
3. Check that you have the legal requirements in place in your outbound emails
4. If you haven’t done so already register with the ICO
5. Review your collection points – are you selling permission, setting expectations and delivering on your promises? Tell your customers why permission is so important to you, and to them.

I’ll be back with new year resolution 2 of 12 soon. In the meantime if you have any questions regarding permission, give us a call, we’ll be pleased to help.