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Can I send to this list?

What's your permission policy?

Our standard for the communication between you and your audience is pretty simple: we expect that you have direct permission from each contact to use their email for communication. This direct permission can be obtained in many ways, but there are some core principles or elements to look for if you’re wondering whether or not your method of collection measures up:

  1. Is the email address given to you willingly and directly by the contact?
  2. Is it reasonable for them to expect marketing communication from you? (e.g. did they purchase from you, join your organization or interact with you/your organization immediately prior to providing their email address)
  3. If they do receive a message from you, will they say “Hey, I know this guy/girl/entity!”? Bonus points if they know you AND know why you just emailed them.

If you base the collection of contact information on these principals, you’re hopefully creating an engaged, happy and healthy list that supports your email marketing initiatives and helps you and/or your organization grow and prosper. If you read that list and start thinking you’re off track, give us a shout and we’ll help guide you to better results.

Now that we’ve covered what is permissible …

Sometimes, you come across a list that may seem reasonable to use, even if it doesn’t pass the permission test above. Maybe you belong to an association that provides its member contact list to all current members (think bar associations, political parties and trade groups). Maybe the local Chamber of Congress provides this information if you ask for it.

None of these lists are going to pass our permission test. As reasonable as it might seem to assume these people will be receptive to your messages, it’s the very fact that you have to assume this that’s going to work against you. The use of association lists without the direct permission of every contact on that list doesn’t create a trusting relationship between you and your recipients, leading to reputation issues for you in your own community, potential deliverability problems and possibly even distrust of the association and how it protects the privacy of its members. These are your colleagues, maybe even your friends, and they deserve your attention to their privacy. Ask them to sign up the next time you see them. Send them a personal email asking them to join your list. Don’t simply send and hope for the best. Get permission, and expect it.

Here’s an example of lists that don’t pass the test:

  • Bar association lists
  • Political party member lists
  • Professional association lists (realtors, teachers, musicians)
  • Chamber of Commerce lists
  • Public records lists
  • Union lists
  • University/College student lists
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