Permission Marketing Guidelines


Permission-based marketing is the gold standard in building relationship-based email communications that benefits the business, email service providers, inbox providers and end consumer.

Email Address and List Acquisition Practices

There is often confusion regarding what are considered acceptable and unacceptable email address acquisition practices. While technically most of the following collection practices are legal under CAN-SPAM, email marketing has become a reputation based marketing channel under which the mail you send is expected, wanted and useful.

Most email service providers expressly forbid their clients from sending unsolicited bulk email, commonly known as “spam”. In simplest terms, “spam” is an email message sent to a group of recipients who have not explicitly requested to receive it. This extends beyond the minimum legal requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and is essential for minimizing complaints resulting from email messages. Email Inbox Providers will begin to block suspect messages based on the volume of complaints received. By following permission-based email marketing practices, you receive higher inbox deliverability of bulk email to all the major inbox providers

Best Practice

  • Organically Acquired

  • Transactional Messages

  • Other Contact Acquired Via Opt-in

Acceptable in some cases

  • Opt-in Co-Registration

  • Co-Branded Messages

  • Opt-In List Rental

  • Old Lists


  • Purchased Lists

  • Harvereted LIsts

  • Email Append

  • Opt-Out List Rental

  • Opt-Out Co-Registration

  • Other Unsolicited List Acquisitions Practices

"Best practice" and "unacceptable" are straight forward and probably do not require an explanation for a dedicated email marketer.

"Acceptable in some cases" comes back to: Is the email you are sending expected and welcomed. Some clarifying questions:

  • How was the opt-in acquired

  • What is the scope of the opt-in

  • What are the specifics of who was allowed to email

  • What is the explicit or implied length of the permission

  • What is the age of the list or time since last engagement (opens, clicks or conversions)

Specific examples of where it could be acceptable

  • Opt-in Co-Registration: where there is an immediate double opt-in

  • Co-Branded Messages: that come from the brand that owns the opt-in that drives to your subscription form

  • Opt-In List Rental: a specific opt-in that the consumer is okay with their data being shared for a specific purpose.

  • Old Lists: 1-time win back campaigns to re-engage the consumer or permanently opt-out