Did You Ask Permission?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what is (and isn’t) OK with permission marketing campaigns, especially email.

We all understand it’s important to get permission for your email marketing (so you don’t look like a spammer), but sometimes the details can be a bit fuzzy.

For example, my online grocer sent me an email today. I’m signed up to receive their weekly newsletter (with deals and weekly specials), but this wasn’t it. I was confused (and annoyed). It seems they’ve started a second newsletter. They never asked me if I wanted it or told me it was coming.

Yes, it’s “kosher” under CAN-SPAM, but it’s not a good idea. This company is irritating me, rather than delighting me.  And, they’re forcing me to say no to something, rather than yes.

So, if you want to start a newsletter, create a course, or add a new side business, make sure you get permission before you start sending it.

Dos and don’ts for getting permission

These apply to both new and existing newsletters.


  • Include a double opt-in on your email list. This is a two-step process requiring new visitors to first click on your link, fill in any requested information, and then confirm their registration through a separate email It sounds complicated, but your email service provider will handle it automatically.
  • Talk to people who want to hear from you. Offer to help people at networking events or on forums. If someone needs a great caterer, and you know one, connect them.
  • Send email and newsletters that are personal, relevant, and anticipated. If someone you talk to at an event expresses an interest in first editions of Nancy Drew mysteries, and you come across one, let them know.
  • Answer questions on your blog. (If you have one, send it to me here).
  • Respond to blog comments (start a conversation).


  • Scrape names from Web sites, or pull names from directories.
  • Add names from ccd emails from other people.
  • Use a list that someone gave you.  That’s not permission, it’s spamming.
  • Email people who attended an event you sponsored. It’s a bit better if that was clearly stated in advance as part of the registration process; but even then it’s annoying.
  • Assume that signing up for an event at  your bar or restaurant equals permission to promote other, unrelated events or lunch specials.

Get permission for a second newsletter

If you already have a newsletter and want to start a new one, first, tell your readers about the new offering in your existing newsletter.  Announce it over a period of several issues (days, weeks, months, however often you send it).  Subscribers may miss one.  You might also follow up with people who didn’t open the initial email. Send them a separate announcement.

Second, when you make the announcement, ask readers to click on the link to sign up. Make this double opt-in (sign up email and confirmation email), just like your initial newsletter.  You don’t want people signing up by mistake.  And, Canada now requires proof of permission as part of their “CAN-SPAM” law.

Third, add the sign-up for the new newsletter to your home page, social media campaigns, and other relevant places.  Make the link easy to find.

As you build the list offer the subscribers to either newsletter the option of getting the other one.

Add the sign up for the new publication on your home page. Also include it in your social media campaigns and other relevant places (Facebook wall, Google+ profile, etc.)

If you do send a sample to your existing subscribers, make it clear that it’s a one-time thing, and you won’t send another one unless they sign up for it.

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com