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Tough Question on Permission

Bill Nussey, Silverpop
by: Bill Nussey (@bnussey)
20 January 2006

One of QRIEM's blog readers sent me a great question: "If I have someone in my office call a company, get the person's name and email address and then email them ... am I spamming if I follow the DMA's content/header guidelines?"

Going strictly by the Direct Marketing Association's guidelines (PDF), sending email without clear and explicit permission is not allowed. Ironically, it is legal under CAN-SPAM. But I support the DMA's stricter approach. As I said in my previous post, it's all about anticipation, not permission. So unless the person making the calls also asks for permission, this approach to list building is not sufficient. Some would argue that, if the prospect provides an email address, then he or she understands that it is going to be used for marketing. If that's the case, then why not get explicit permission and do it right?

Keep in mind that the DMA guidelines and other email marketing best practices all involve BULK email. However, 1:1 marketing messages are not exempt from CAN-SPAM. If for some reason you simply send a single email from a single sales person that is clearly 1:1 and personal in nature, then I think much of the concern about permission is greatly reduced. In that personal email, you can provide a link to a newsletter or promotional email program that will put that person on your list. It would seem to be more practical to just simply pitch the prospect on the phone if you can, but I can see some circumstances where getting the person's email address for a 1:1 message might be the best idea.

Bottom line, when it comes to high-volume email, permission is not enough -- it's all about anticipation.




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