What is Permission-Based Email Marketing?

Believe it or not, people still use email. A lot. This means email campaigns are still an effective way to reach customers, drive up engagement, and fuel business success.

Permission-based email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that helps you build email campaigns that respect the relationship you have with your customers. Whether your business runs digital storefronts, informational blogs, or mobile apps, permission-based email marketing can help keep your customer base engaged—and even help you connect with potential customers.

So… what is it?


What is permission-based email marketing?

Permission-based marketing is the act gaining consent from customers before you target them with advertising. For email, this means asking permission to send marketing emails to your customers. This requires asking them for their email address and notifying them of how you intend to use it: by sending them emails focused on your business offerings.

Implied vs. express permission

When creating a permission-based email marketing campaign, it’s important to understand that there are two types of permission a customer (current or potential) can give. These are:

  • Implied permission: when a customer provides their email, but not necessarily their permission to use it
  • Express permission: when a customer specifically consents to receive marketing emails from you

Implied permission can come in several forms. For instance, if a customer orders a product from you, they might provide their email address for shipping updates. If you offer a free informational PDF or coupon, customers could sign up to receive one. Giving you their email address in these situations implies they might be open to receiving further emails from your business, but you can’t know for certain.

Express permission occurs when a customer fully understands they’re signing up to receive regular marketing emails from your business. This can happen when they fill out a form to join email lists or loyalty programs specifically designed to keep them up to date on new products, upcoming sales, or other promotions.

Why is permission important?

Gaining customer permission to email them is important for many reasons. It lets them know you respect their privacy and their time. It also has several benefits to your business, including:

Part of a first-party data strategy

In the not-too-distant past, companies bought and sold customer data to and from third parties. You could find customers potentially interested in your products or services, learn how to reach them, and target your ads toward them. This required no interaction with the customer—and no permission from them, either. Many modern customers view practices like this as a red flag and an invasion of privacy.

First-party data is the data you collect directly from your customers. Not only does this help you avoid purchasing data from a third party, it offers benefits that third-party data doesn’t. Collecting data on your own, such as asking for permission to email them, requires customers to interact with your business in some way (often by visiting your website or clicking on a paid ad). This helps ensure that the data you collect pertains to customers already interested in your business.

If you use a customer data platform (CDP), first-party data can help imbue it with a constant influx of up-to-date data on customer traits and habits. By implementing this data, you can consistently tweak the way your customers experience your business. This can help tailor each new website visit, ad, and email to more accurately fit the way your customers interact with your business.

Build positive customer relationships

The more your customers interact with your brand, the more chances you have to build relationships with them. By gaining permission to target them with marketing emails, you can gain one of the most important building blocks for any relationship: trust.

Once customers can trust that you’ll only contact them with the information they’ve agreed to receive, you can begin to integrate your brand into their daily life. By providing yourself a consistent avenue to communicate with customers, you can keep them engaged in your brand’s progress. This can increase brand awareness and loyalty—and keep you top of mind when they need a product or service you offer!

This also gives you some control over their customer journey. With consistent emails, you can monitor engagement for each step of their journey and build a relationship with them that reflects this data and drives up engagement.

Customer Engagement

Avoid the spam folder

One of my favorite aspects of modern email platforms is how smart they’re getting. Once I’ve deleted enough emails from any given email address, future emails from that user become automatically filtered as either spam or junk. This helps my inbox become far more (though not entirely) decluttered. Because, let’s face it: getting lots of emails we don’t want is annoying.

By gaining permission from customers to send them emails before you send them any, you become less likely to become filtered out of their inbox. The importance of overcoming this challenge can’t be overstated. Because, in order for customers to open your email, they have to know they’ve received it.

And people don’t usually check their spam folders “just in case.”

Increase sales with better customer engagement

Let’s be honest: we’re building a marketing campaign because we want our business to succeed. In order for that to happen, we need to increase sales. And permission-based email marketing helps do just that.

When customers (whether current or potential) opt in to receiving emails from you, they’re giving you one of the most important pieces of information you can receive: you know they want to hear from you! Because the customers are already interested in what you have to offer, they’re more likely to open emails from your business. Open rates increase. With that first hurdle conquered, you can see more clicks, higher conversion rates, and increased sales.

All because you cared enough to ask permission before sending them advertisements.

Data privacy in marketing

In an increasingly digital world, data privacy has become an important aspect of daily life. Many customers are wary of what companies might do with our data. And those worries can quickly become a rabbit hole: Do they sell our data? Use it to learn more about us than we’re comfortable with? Target us with ads in places where we haven’t given them express permission? Do they even bother to protect it?

When dealing with customers in the digital marketplace, data privacy becomes a priority—and that’s why asking for consent to use their information can be so important. Here are some tips on how to handle data privacy and why it’s important:

Data is regulated

In 2018, the European Union enacted the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Though this only affects companies operating within the EU, these extensive regulations set a standard for data privacy many companies use the world over. Even if you don’t currently operate in the EU, if you ever hope to expand your business to include it, it might be easier to research and implement these regulations now to prevent the need for changing your operations in the future.

Even if you don’t plan to operate in the EU, researching GDPR guidelines could still be considered best practices. The United States has regulations of its own, though there’s no one comprehensive law, like the GDPR. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future, so preparing could help you in the future.

Plus, your customers will appreciate that you take data privacy seriously.

Data is sensitive

Despite companies taking precautions, data breaches can still occur. When this happens, personally identifiable information is often targeted. This is because it’s lucrative to hackers and other digital criminals. Information such as credit card numbers, passwords, and other information pertaining to identity can be used to make unauthorized purchases, sign up for credit cards, and commit identity theft.

Taking steps to ensure the safety and privacy of your customers can help them feel comfortable permitting you to use their data and information.

Not all data is useful

Respecting data privacy is good for business in more ways than one. This is especially true once you realize that not all data is useful. Understanding this can help you to collect only the data you need.

This has two primary benefits. For one, you limit the amount of customer data at risk of a breach. For two, you can improve your data management. If you collect more data than you need, you might end up with too much data to analyze—even if you use a CDP or other software. This can decrease its effectiveness and become a hindrance to your business growth.

Email marketing has a ROI of over 122%

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