The Basics of Opt-In Consent for Email Lists

Written by: Charlotte Bausch and Grace Andrake

When people first start sending marketing emails, they often want as many contacts as possible on their lists. Seeing a large list of contacts when you’re sending emails is exciting–and when you’re working hard to make emails for your list, why wouldn’t you want to reach as many people as you can?

What beginners don’t always realize is that the number of contacts on your list means nothing if those contacts aren’t gathered properly. If your contacts haven’t given you permission to email them, sending emails to them puts you at risk of spam reports, low engagement rates, and even blocklisting from email clients.

Read on to learn how to make sure you have consent from every contact on your list, so you can hit send with confidence.

Why You Need to Get Email Consent

All email marketers need to follow certain best practices in order to remain in good standing with email clients like Gmail or Outlook.

In terms of getting new contacts, the best practice is to make sure that all of your contacts have given consent to receive your emails. Any email contacts you gather need to give you permission to send them emails before you add them to your list.

If you continuously send to people who have unsubscribed, never subscribed, or an address that continues to bounce, email clients like Gmail will begin to expect this from you and will automatically mark your emails as spam or not deliver them at all. 
Beyond just obeying regulations from email clients, getting consent from contacts is the best way to keep an email list healthy. A healthy list helps overall email performance. Having consent also lowers the number of spam reports and bounces, which keeps your deliverability rate high.

Different Kinds of Email Consent

There are two main types of opt-in consent that are acceptable for marketing emails: implied and explicit

  • Explicit Consent: The simplest kind of consent is explicit consent. This is when a contact manually opts-in to receive emails from you. They can do this through written consent, confirming their subscription through double opt-in, or clicking a checkbox on a form.
  • Implied Consent: This type of consent is a little more vague. Implied consent happens when someone gives you their email for a business reason, but they haven’t explicitly said that they want to be subscribed to your marketing emails.

As you might be able to guess, explicit consent is the preferred way to get permission to build a good email sending reputation for your brand. It’s always better to have clear permission from your contacts.

What Doesn’t Count as Email Consent

There are lots of scenarios where you might get access to emails you want to use for your list, like pulling them from a membership database or keeping track of contacts from a past job. No matter what the situation, if those contacts haven’t given your company, specifically, permission to send them marketing emails, then you still can’t use them.

You can’t use contacts from a list you’ve purchased or from lists from memberships or organizations. You also can’t send marketing emails to personal contacts or to contacts who have reached out to you individually via email. Sending emails to contacts like these is likely to cause large numbers of spam reports and unsubscribes. 

Even if lists available for purchase advertise that they have opt-in from those contacts, or if you’ve gotten opt-in from contacts for previous companies, this isn’t enough. Unless they’ve given your company permission to email them, you don’t have consent.

The bottom line is that if contacts haven’t given your company consent, you shouldn’t send them marketing emails.

Growing Your Email List the Right Way

No matter how tempting it is to get new contacts through sources like third-party lists or data enrichment tools, in the end, you’ll be better off building a list of contacts who are interested in what your emails have to offer. Building a list like this takes time, but will yield the best results for your email marketing efforts. 

You can grow your list by generating leads through paid advertising and organic social media, or by collecting emails through gated content. You should also include an opt-in form on your website, either on the page or as a pop-up, so visitors can subscribe to you. 

These strategies might be slower than buying a list, but the contacts you gain from them are guaranteed to be interested in your emails–after all, they asked for them!

Need help managing your email lists?

Whether you’re up-to-date with your email lists or unsure where to start, our team of email experts can take your email marketing efforts to the next level. Contact our team today!

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