Make Money Online

Do You Have Permission to Market?

This post is part rant.  Bear with me, there’s a lesson here for all of us.

Permission Marketing is where a person gives you permission to market your products and business to them, generally via email.  Do we all see the connection here?  Permission Marketing = customer giving permission.

If you don’t have permission, then your email marketing is considered Spam and is illegal.  As a general rule, I’m assuming that none of us intend to be spammers, and none of us want to deal with the fallout from being considered a spammer, or even just an annoyance.

Let’s look at a real-life example on how not to do Permission Marketing.

In mid 2007 I attended an Expo as a stall holder.  During the day I gave out a stack of business cards, actually I had them sitting on the table for people to pick up.  Fast forward to early Feb 2009.  I received the following email (names and business changed to protect the guilty, email paraphrased for brevity):

“Hi Melinda,

My name is ________ and we met at the Expo last year.  My husband and I are expanding our business and wondered if you would be interested in joining us.

Our business is xyz and we sell  “abc products” within Australia and  internationally.

If you would be interested in joining us, please email me and we’ll set up a time to connect.”


I have no problem with the original email – it’s nice, it tells me who she is, where we met and why she’s contacting me.

Now, I’m not interested.  It’s a network marketing business, and the products aren’t of interest to me.  So I deleted her email without contacting her.

Notice her comment: “If you would be interested in joining us, please email me” I didn’t contact her.  Not once.  However in the two weeks after the original email, I received at least FOUR emails inviting me to a launch of their new products, asking again if I want to join and promoting their products and their business.

There’s a few things wrong here that possibly aren’t too obvious if you weren’t involved.  Firstly, her facts are wrong – it wasn’t last year that we met.  However, I’ll be generous and overlook that as we all get years mixed up occasionally.

She very obviously hadn’t looked at the website listed on the business card, as that business had been closed for several months prior to her email.

If she had bothered to check the website, and let’s imagine for a moment that it still existed, she would have noticed that I no longer live in the same state, and haven’t for well over a year.  Therefore there is no point inviting me to a launch that would require me to drive twelve hours each way, especially when I had indicated that I had no interest in joining her business.

Unfortunately this is not the only time I have seen this, this is only one example.

The moral of the story is this: If a person hasn’t specifically stated that they would like to hear more about your products and services – you don’t have permission to market to them.

If you have asked the person if they want to be marketed to and they either said no or didn’t reply – you don’t have permission to market to them.

If you haven’t been in touch with someone for a while and want to ask them if you can market to them – check your facts first.  Getting your facts wrong tells the person that you don’t care enough to do your homework and that means – you don’t have permission to market to them.

Just because you have a person’s business card in your hot little hand, even if they handed it to you personally at a networking event – you don’t have permission to market to them.

The only time you have permission to market to someone is if they have requested to receive your email newsletters, preferably via a double-opt-in system such as Aweber.  Or, if you have asked for email addresses and specifically told them that they will be added to your newsletter list. (Note, they still need to confirm the opt-in!)  Never assume that because someone has given you their email address that you have permission to market to them.

Always, always, always ask.  And then confirm again.  If you don’t have specific permission to market to someone – don’t do it.  Your business will get a bad name, your emails will be eaten by spam filters and you will end up being blacklisted.  It’s not worth the hassle.

Melinda Jameson

Melinda is the founder of and started this site to share her best work from home ideas to help other Work At Home Mums become more financially independent and able to spend time with their families.

19 thoughts on “Do You Have Permission to Market?

  • Hi Jenn and Welcome! 🙂

    I love your site, it truly is a Beautiful Calling!

  • I’m on the great cloth diaper hunt and took a little detour to read this post as I found it very interesting. I was pleasantly surprised to find the owl at the end.

    Anyway, I don’t operate a business at all but do have a blog. I wll keep the information in mind!

    Jenn @ Beautiful Calling’s last blog post..You Don’t Need All That! (Soapnut Giveaway)

  • @ Janice – I hadn’t realised the spam censor was on! I’ve turned it off so hopefully you won’t lose any more wonderful comments. 🙂

  • This is another reason why for over 10 years I have never ever accepted any offer of a mailing list – unless you have gathered the names yourself via a double-optin list, it’s just asking for soul-searing pain and agony.

    Always respect the optouts and optins.

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach’s last blog post..20 Times 101 Ways To Earn Money Online! Part 1

  • Your WP spam thing just told me off, gave me a message about java script and cookies, told me to go back and hit the refresh button and then lost my lovely, long (and not daft) comment. I can’t risk rewriting a long one, Melinda so here’s a summary. Great thought provoking dialogue! What I read from it was that we should respect the humanity of anyone we do business with. It’s core to all business, which is, after all, simply connecting someone who wants/needs something to what it is they want/need. I’m really sad. It was a grown up comment!

    (This one seems to have got through – go figure! And thank you for enabling the comment editor. I appreciate it!)

    janice’s last blog post..How to Write like Adam Lambert

  • @Kristy That law isn’t just Australian. All lists have to provide an opt out link.

    if you…had your email address published openly on your site and I happened to be selling articles that were relevant to your web site I am free to use that email address to send you bulk email as much as I like until such time as you unsubscribe.

    This is tantamount to email address harvesting and Australia have a law prohibiting the creation or use of software intended to harvest email addresses.

    Sure you could do it manually but then there’s the argument that all web browsers are software…

    Marc – WelshScribe’s last blog post..The Rhydian Roberts Guide To Successful Freelancing

  • Um yes, yes I did miss the tongue in cheek bit! One of the issues with the written word – it doesn’t always convey the intended emotion! 🙂

  • Taking off the Devil’s Advocate hat…

    @Marc – In Australia, there is an legal obligation to provide an opt-out link which *must* remove them from the list.

    From my experience of lawyers, the letter of the law comes down to knowing what your legal boundaries are so that you know when you are breaking them and when you are not. Yes, some businesses are known for actively choosing to break the law – we see it in courts regularly. (,28348,25312670-5014239,00.html) That said, all it does is show the boundaries in which a business can legally operate.

    From there, with the help of a professional marketer (either in-house, from an agency or as a consultant) you can sit down and devise a strategic plan to build a mailing list. Clearly, highly successful mailing lists that have excellent open rates and link-through rates are those that are driven and fed by people who really do wish to receive those emails and are legitimately interested in the content. A good strategic plan will evaluate all available options for building the list and select those in the best strategic interest of the business. In most cases, this will always be a process of confirmed explicit consent and will look to paint the business is a positive light in respect to ethics which ties back to Melinda’s comment about the spirit of the law.

    @Melinda Sorry, perhaps you missed that my offer of spamming you with offers to sell you articles was tongue in cheek!! :}

  • @ Marc. I didn’t say they couldn’t make contact, just that they couldn’t assume that I wished to be added to an email list and continually marketed to. Making contact is the whole point of giving out business cards! Strange internet laws here – you should see the discussions on the internet censorship the govt wants to bring in! Ai ai ai!!!!

    @ Kristy. If my email is published on my web site you do NOT have permission to add it to your mailing list unless I expressly request to be added. I know that is in the Australian law, and when we get back from the zoo this afternoon I’ll find it and add it here. If you add me to an email list without my permission then you have broken the law.

    From a personal point of view, if I haven’t given you express permission to continue contacting me after the initial contact then I will consider your emails spam and will mark them as such. Same as Marc, I will try and get you blacklisted because from my perspective you are spamming.

    From a business owner’s point of view, if a marketing person suggested such tactics I would (a) refuse – because I don’t think it’s ethical and ‘I’ don’t want to be treated that way so I will not treat anyone else in that manner. And (b) I’d be looking at getting another marketing advisor who did not use dodgy tactics.

    I think this discussion is on the difference between following the letter of the law or the spirit of the law and looking for loopholes. For me, and hopefully for any other ethical business owner, they will treat their customers and potential customers the way they wish to be treated and will comply with the spirit of the law.

    Regarding writing an article on this. If you would like to submit a guest article to me via the Contact page I would be happy to look at it and consider it. However I should point out that I do not pay for guest posts, having a bio and link to your site is generally considered payment for the exposure that guest posting brings.

    Thanks for an interesting discussion!

  • You Australians have some strange rules surrounding the Internet.

    @Mel I tend to disagree with the business card statement you made. If someone handed me their card in person then I’d assume permission was implied to reach out and make contact.

    Of course, like you I’d expect them to conduct some basic research first. If I didn’t hear anything back then I’d probably follow up with one more e-mail just poitely asking if they received my email but also saying if you don’t reply then I will leave you alone.

    @Kristy – Pardon me for being blunt but as impressive as your knowledge of the law is, it’s plain and utter crap.

    “just drop me an email or give me a call, otherwise I look forward to discussing this amazing opportunity further with you.”

    Anyone who pulls this trick with me will get their email address submitted to the blacklist directories. And if you want to run a legitimate business you *never* want your address on those lists as it’s nigh on impossible to be removed from them.

    Marc – WelshScribe’s last blog post..A Spiritual Revolution

  • @ Melinda – I totally agree but there is a flip side to that.

    If I was to email you tomorrow and say:

    “Hey Melinda! I thought after our chat in the comments area of your web site that I’d email you because I have a kick-butt idea to launch both our businesses to a whole new level and would love for you to be involved.

    I have a mailing list that I would like to add you to so that you can get all the information about it. If you don’t want me to add you then that is fine – just drop me an email or give me a call, otherwise I look forward to discussing this amazing opportunity further with you.”

    Then by not responding you have ‘implied consent’ even though you never explicitly gave permission.

    Alternatively, if you, as a decision maker for your web content, had your email address published openly on your site and I happened to be selling articles that were relevant to your web site I am free to use that email address to send you bulk email as much as I like until such time as you unsubscribe. (Unless you have a no spam policy explicitly stated on your web site which can be reasonably seen by anyone planning to contact you). This is why I have contact guidelines:

    For businesses who feel they do need to get out there by email there are fantastic ways to solicit people to join mailing lists for themselves but there are also perfectly legal ways to build up a mailing list also. Marketing professionals know where the legal line stands on these matters and can be of great benefit to help you find the right wording not just to add people numerically to your list but to also add quality leads in also.

    Melinda – thank you for putting this article out there though because I struggle with a lot of spam from the US relating to being the primary contact for media releases with every man and his dog wanting to ‘optimise’ the delivery of the press release and get ‘guaranteed traffic’. It is really important, not just for people not to cross the spam line, but also to avoid false or misleading claims as well as excess puffery. Maybe that could be your next article? Or maybe, I could write one and sell it to you? ;}


  • @ Kristy. Thanks for that clarification. 🙂 I love devil’s advocates!

    Let me clarify what I said. In the example I used, I had no objection to the original email. However when I did not give permission to continue to email me, that was when it crossed the line.

    I have no problem with “Hey we met at such and such a place, and I thought you might be interested in my business which is xyz.” I do however take issue with the continuation of marketing when they requested that I let them know if I am interested and I did not reply. By not replying to the email I indicated that I was not interested, therefore they did not have permission to continue to market to me – especially not 18 months after the first contact!

    The point I wanted to make in the article is that just because you have a person’s email address, however you came by it, unless they have specifically indicated that they wish to receive marketing and busines information from you then you do not have permission to continue to market to them. At the end of the day, any respectable business owner is going to want to be seen in the best light, and not be considered a spammer – intentionally or otherwise.

    Just to make it interesting, I am in Australia (as you know) and therefore come under the Aust legislation. However my newsletters are sent using Aweber which is in the US, so the emails are sent from there and so are subject to US spam legislation. Plus the majority of my readers are from outside Australia, which is why I chose not to put specific links in the article.

  • Thanks for your reply, Melinda! REALLY helpful to have that kind of help. I didn’t even know about the address thing either, but come to think of it, it’s always on aweber newsletters.

    janice’s last blog post..How to Write like Adam Lambert

  • Hi there Melinda

    Putting on my ‘Devil’s Advocate’ hat to clarify where things truly stand from a business perspective.

    The requirement under the Spam Act 2003 (Australia) allows consent to be inferred not just ‘explicit’. The ‘inferred’ consent can come into play based on either of two premises.

    The first premise is after considering both the relationship between the sender and the recipient (if any) and the conduct of the recipient. If there is a prior bi-directional relationship between the sender (either as a business or individually) it must be taken into account. Where there is a relationship, both the relationship and the conduct of the recipient are taken into account to infer consent. If the recipient has not told you they do not want commercial email after obtaining your email address through that relationship and they have not reacted adversely when you have sent it to them before, including the initial email, then consent can be inferred.

    A one-off relationship between the parties (for example, exchanging cards at a networking event, or a single item purchase) will only constitute a relationship until a short time after the transaction is completed which mean that the first bulk email must be able to be linked by a close date between the transaction and the receipt of the email. There may be a transaction which implies an ongoing relationship including, for example, sale of a service that spans an ongoing duration of time.

    To infer consent, in the context of any relationship between the sender and the recipient it must be reasonable to interpret that they relationship is such that it is reasonable to infer consent. It must be possible to infer that the recipient would more likely than not, in fact be happy to receive the messages.

    The second premise is under the business function rule. If a business owner or individual (employed in business) publish their contact email address in a public place (anywhere online that does not have restricted access through a log in or random places like mailing list archives), AND the business function is relevant to the commercial message being sent by bulk email, or relates to an individual whose role or business function is relevant to the commercial message (eg sending a Marketing Department employee email on Marketing their employer’s business), AND the appropriate person has not expressed a desire not to receive the commercial messages. Then you can trawl business web sites for contact email addresses legally.

    Just like the English language – there is always exceptions to the rule in Australian legislation. For more information in plain’ish English try the Coalition Against Unsolicited Bulk Email:

    Associate Member, Australian Marketing Institute

  • @ Janice. Comments Editor – will do, just for you! Let me know what you want fixed and I’ll edit the post if you would like.

    Re contacting the email list you have. This is why I love the double opt-in system, because you don’t have these ethical dilemmas.

    IMO you gave them the option to ‘unsubscribe’ so if they DIDN’T email you then you should be fine. Because you did tell them that you may be contacting them again.

    I would email them, and start off by saying “You’re receiving this because you downloaded my e-book and agreed to future contact” or something similar. This way they know exactly how you have their email address.

    Under Spam legislation, you must have an unsubscribe option on every email, and a valid postal address.

    Something else to keep in mind, if you are emailing a large number of people from your computer, a lot of ISP’s will limit the number of addressee’s an email is sent to. I know my ISP will block any email sent to more than 15 addressees. The way to get around this is to set up your email as a Mail Merge, so one email goes to one addressee.

  • Please get Ajax Comments editor – the typos I left in my comment make me want to cry… 🙁

    janice’s last blog post..How to Write like Adam Lambert

  • Hi there, Melinda

    Everyone seems to be out and about enjoying the weather and the lovely walks between blog homes today!

    This is a powerful post, and timely for me. I have a long list of addresses from people who have downloaded my free ebook. I made it very clear in my thank you email to downloaders that if they didn’t want to hear from me again, to please let me know so that I wouldn’t contact them to let them know of anything new I did. I didn’t have a double opt-in clause as my subscribe box isn’t conneted to aweber or anything. That kind of leaves me in limbo; they haven’t opted out which is like a single but not double opt in. What do you reckon? How would you feel if I contacted you with a link to another free ebook or something if you were in that list and had been told that I might contact you again some day? Is that illegal? It’s scary territory for me because I hate beeing exploited or spammed and would hate to think someone thought that of me.

    janice’s last blog post..How to Write like Adam Lambert

  • That’a a big ‘if’ there Sean!

    It is clear, it’s very black and white, however a lot of people don’t know, don’t care, or think they are the exception because their business is so good/useful/wonderful etc.

    Nice to see you over here! 🙂

  • “If a person hasn’t specifically stated that they would like to hear more about your products and services – you don’t have permission to market to them.”

    Wow, that couldn’t have been made any clearer. It’s like the rules of traffic, if everyone followed them, there would never be any problems.

    Writer Dad’s last blog post..I’m a Writer

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