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The idea of doing something twice over usually doesn’t sound all that appealing most of the time. However, when it comes to signing up your valued customers and audience members as part of your email marketing contact list, incorporating a double opt-in approach provides a variety of benefits and opportunities that can enhance your brand awareness and reach. Don’t believe it? Let’s spend the next few minutes reviewing the case for double opt-ins to see if there really is any merit to the idea of being thorough on this front.

The Double Opt-in Difference

Of course, it’s probably worth stepping aside for a moment to discuss the particulars of the double opt-in method for those who aren’t quite as familiar with this corner of the email marketing world. As ClickZ’s Jeanne Jennings points out, the double opt-in method attempts to connect and verify the agreement between you and your new list member via multiple levels of connection.

The typical double opt-in process doesn’t end once these consumers drop their email addresses into the virtual submission box, but instead goes a step further and confirms that this address actually belongs to the individual in question. Usually some sort of confirmation code or URL makes its way into this message, ensuring that only those who receive and respond to this offering end up on the list. Naturally, incorporating resend options as a failsafe method helps guarantee that your brand doesn’t disenfranchise those viewers who are experiencing some technical difficulties.

The Types of Double Opt-in

Depending on how you approach the double opt-in process, Aaron Bolshaw of Business 2 Community explains that there’s a few unique paths your brand can take with this type of additional confirmation. Aside from the generic double opt-in with a confirmation message, your organization can go a step farther by offering up an explicit unsubscribe opportunity that goes beyond the legally required link in the email’s footer – a little more on this later.

Another way to establish this bond is by asking for a “whitelist” exemption. Whitelisting ensures that the consumer plans to stick around for the long haul by adding your branded addresses to his or her personal contacts. If you go down this route, don’t forget to include whitelist requests in your scheduled content moving forward so that you can also gain this connection with your prior list membership

Gauging the Benefits

So now that you know how it works, the discussion turns to why you would want to complicate and add more steps to the initial communications between your organization and its email subscriber community. While there’s no denying that the double opt-in approach does require more setup than a single opt-in alternative, the benefits of this approach consistently outweigh the additional effort associated with this practice.

First off, by creating this natural filter, your contact list will reduce the amount of dormant or disinterested users, as well as those who joined the list by accident or by some other mistake. Your raw list numbers might experience a slight drop, but the quality and responsiveness of this membership will rise significantly thanks to the increased density of interested consumers.

In addition to the refinement of your contact list, incorporating a double opt-in system also gives you a chance to connect with your subscribers instantaneously. Whether you add in a welcome as part of the sign up email itself, or simply build an automated response that fires off after the second confirmation occurs, making contact with this new subscriber can occur in real-time and not have to wait until your next scheduled message ends up in the inbox.

Thinking Long Term

At the end of the day, there’s nothing that says you absolutely have to go beyond the single opt-in system. However, the benefits of putting in a little extra effort and building a lasting connection with the people that make up your audience stands out in a clearly defined manner.

Outside of the immediate gains, the rising demand for consumer privacy and rights – Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) in particular – ensures that even though double opt-in systems aren’t a necessity now, it’s hard to imagine a future in which this and other comprehensive tactics aren’t firmly entrenched in the status quo. With this in mind, as well as the imminent benefits of making the switch, the question isn’t whether or not double opt-ins should be a part of your email marketing approach, but rather how long are you willing to wait before you catch up with the cutting edge of the industry?


The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: putting the perfect golden finish on a brand new SMS approach by following Seattle Sun Tan’s lead.

Everyone loves to revamp his or her style from time to time. Whether it’s picking up a new outfit or laying out for a while in the tanning bed to get that perfect bronze complexion, a new look can go a long way toward making a great impression the next time you’re out for a night on the town. In a lot of ways, your marketing campaign works in the same way – if you stay with the same look for too long, it’s impossible not to come off boring. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how Seattle Sun Tan used a slick new SMS system to dazzle customers who were tired of the same old boring pitch.

Starting from Scratch

Being in the tanning business means you’ve always got to look your best, whether it’s in the shop while rubbing elbows with the customers or in the digital world with emails and text messages. As far as the execs over at Seattle Sun Tan were concerned, a fresh new style was the key to getting back in the good graces of customers on the go. To do this, a new campaign that focused on SMS messages was the perfect way to dazzle shoppers and get bodies back under the bright tanning bed lights.

How It Worked

By going with an SMS approach, Seattle Sun Tan needed to do something memorable, so the company hit on three big points to boost their marketing campaign. The first was creating a catchy way for customers to opt-in using the keyword “TANS” in conjunction with a vanity short code.

From here, giving shoppers what they want most – coupons – happened next. By offering $20 bucks for their next purchase, the company not only gave people a reason to get in the stores, but also enticed them to “buy up” and get a more expensive tanning package. Finally, getting people in gear with expiration dates ensured that these customers redeemed these SMS coupons and didn’t leave them floating around in cell phone limbo forever.

Going the Extra Mile

Now everything that Seattle Sun Tan had done up to this point was good, but good isn’t enough when you’re trying to really blow the customers away. In an effort to truly put this SMS campaign over the top, the company added in the aforementioned offer to its existing email database – which numbers over 80,000 members – as well as pumping up coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and all its other social media pages. Finally, showing off what shoppers could save by joining the texting list with posters and displays in store added a more traditional angle to the sleek new marketing approach.

A Great New Look

So what did Seattle Sun Tan get in return for changing up its marketing style with a smart SMS campaign? To start, the company created a text-messaging database that included 4,750 customers. Out of this database, 57 percent went through with a purchase using the SMS coupon, leading to an extra $196,101.87 in sales. Adding in that these customers generally spent 500 percent more once they got in the store is pretty impressive, to say the least. Oh and one more thing – these numbers are just for the first month of the new campaign – not too shabby for 31 days worth of text messages.

Planning Your Own Makeover

So what does all of this mean for you and your brand? First, Seattle Sun Tan’s story shows us that changing up your style and retooling how you reach out to customers can generate some serious results. However, jumping in headfirst without a smart strategy is just asking for your plans to crumble before they even get off the ground. By going with the SMS approach, and adding in some help from your email database and social media following, you can avoid flopping with customers and generate some major results in the registers. Whether you’re helping people get that perfect bronze color for a night out at the club or your business offers up something completely different, it doesn’t matter – as long as you nail the perfect marketing look with great SMS messages, you’ll be sure to knock customers off their feet every time.


For the most complete information about CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)
please review the complimentary

Elite Email CASL Survival Guide

It took nearly 10 years of hard work and much debate, but Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (known as CASL, or Bill C-28 for those that like to get technical) now has a start date.

All marketers in Canada and elsewhere need to circle July 1, 2014 on their calendars because this is the milestone moment when arguably the world’s toughest spam law will take effect.

It’s been a long journey for this game-changing piece of legislation that has it’s original roots way back in 2004 when the Task Force on Spam was established. Canada was on a mission to wage war on unsolicited email (…cue the fight music…!). After much effort, the bill gained Royal Assent in December 2010 but that set off a slew of debates, complaints, concerns and general wariness about whether this new law would actually afford Canadian inboxes with more protection or just add to the administrative burden of businesses.

On November 28, 2013, the Treasury Board of Canada President (and all around anti-spam superhero), Tony Clement approved the final Industry Canada regulations. These final regulations will be published in The Canada Gazette on December 18, 2013, but at this point we essentially know what is covered.

Yesterday, on December 4, 2013, Industry Minister James Moore announced that Canada’s anti-spam law (CASL) will come into force on July 1, 2014 with these wise words:

Our government does not believe Canadians should receive emails they do not want or did not ask to receive. These legislative measures will protect consumers from spam and other threats that lead to harassment, identity theft and fraud. We are prohibiting unsolicited text messages, including cellphone spam, and giving Canadian businesses clarity so they can continue to compete in the online marketplace.”

This announcement gives marketers 6 months to whip their mailing lists & other databases into shape to ensure CASL compliance.

For those that want to really get into the nitty-gritty details, CASL is actually being rolled out in a phased deployment. Although the bulk of the CASL regulations that impact marketers will take effect on July 1, 2014, there are some components only taking effect down the road.

Here is the technical breakdown from the official order:

  • July 1, 2014 as the day on which sections 1 to 7, 9 to 46, 52 to 54, 56 to 67 and 69 to 82 of the Act, subsections 12(2) and 12.2(2) of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, as enacted by section 83 of the Act, subsection 86(2), section 88 and subsection 89(1) of the Act come into force;
  • January 15, 2015 as the day on which section 8 of the Act comes into force; and
  • July 1, 2017 as the day on which sections 47 to 51 and 55 of the Act come into force.

Based on this, it would appear that starting in July 2014 the government is enforcing the administrative monetary penalty for those that violate the new set of rules. It should be noted there are actually three government agencies tasked with enforcing CASL: Competition Bureau of Canada, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, & Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Then, in July 2017, things go a bit broader because individuals will be able to apply to the courts to seek compensation for CASL violations. Of course, things may change between now and then, but certainly having individuals file CASL claims takes things to a whole new level because now anyone and everyone can be enforcer of the stringent new rules.

CASL Timeline:

  • May 25, 2010 :: Bill C-28 First Reading
  • Dec. 15, 2010 :: Royal Assent (Passed)
  • July 2011 :: Regulations Drafted
  • July 2011 :: Regulations “gazetted” for Review
  • Sept. 7, 2011 :: Draft Regulations Comment Deadline
  • Mar. 2012 :: CRTC Regulations Gazetted
  • Jan. 5, 2013 :: Industry Canada Draft Regulations Published for Comment
  • Mid 2013 :: Industry Canada Final Regulations
  • July 1, 2014 :: CASL Takes Effect (or at least the majority of the rules)
  • January 15, 2014 :: CASL Rules Related to Installing Computer Programs Takes Effect
  • July 1, 2017 :: CASL Rules Related to People Bringing CASL Violations to the Courts Takes Effect

CASL is not something that can be ignored. So, if you’re one of those marketers who has been turning a blind eye to this, secretly hoping that the new law would never rock your world, then it’s time to wake up and face the music. The penalties for violations are intense (… Canada is not messing around with this!…) and can go as high as a $1 million fine for an individual or $10 million for companies.

Or, maybe you’re the marketer in the USA (or any other country) who is saying “Oh Canada…. who cares about their rules, they don’t effect me…”. Well, you are wrong. Very very wrong. The new regulation doesn’t only effect Canadian organizations, it effects anyone who sends a commercial electronic message (CEM) that is accessed from a device in Canada. What this means is that if you’re a retail store in Florida, but you’ve got some folks on your mailing list who live in Canada (and probably visited your establishment when escaping the cold Canadian winter), then CASL is fully in effect when you message them. The CRTC (in Canada) will be working closely with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the USA to enforce the new laws. So, playing the “but I’m in America” card, will not work!

It should also be noted that CASL isn’t just an “email” law (similar to the CAN-SPAM Act), it covers other digital channels such as text messages (SMS). That means becoming CASL-compliant isn’t an exercise focused exclusively on email mailing lists, but other databases as well.

Show Me The Money Consent

Is it still OK to be using quotes from Jerry Maguire? I figure if CASL started in 2004, then referencing a movie from 1996 is fair game…. and, I’m going to use that to drive home the point that what people are going to be talking about in regards to the new CASL rules is consent, consent, consent.

So much of the new regulations are rooted in acquiring proper express consent to ensure you are only sending messages to people that specifically asked for them. Gone are the days of tricking people into joining your mailing list; gone are the days of having a small pre-checked box that secretly said “receive future emails”; and really gone are the days of doing anything that is not out in the open and super obvious. Keep in mind, the goal of CASL isn’t to stop the use of email/SMS for commercial messages, the goal is to make sure that people only get the messages they asked for.

It should be mentioned that there is no special “grandfather” clause for existing databases. Just because you’ve been emailing someone, does NOT mean you can continue emailing them if you haven’t gotten affirmative consent. This means you need to comb back through your database and anyone you don’t have a really solid opt-in paper trail for, you will need to re-confirm.

There are certainly some exemptions to the new intense explicit consent rules, but the majority of these won’t apply in a typical email marketing or text message marketing scenario. Exemptions include:

  • Messages between organizations that already have a relationship
  • Messages sent internally within an organization
  • Messages sent on behalf of registered charities
  • Messages sent on behalf of a political party or political candidate
  • Messages sent based on a referral made by a third party (although the third party must be disclosed)
  • Messages sent to existing family and personal relationships (phew, your mom can’t sue you for $1 million for inviting her to Sunday brunch!)

OK, I Get It… This is Serious…. What Do I Do Now?

First, take a deep breath. So many marketers are going into panic mode and that is both unnecessary and not helpful.
You still have 6 months to get organized, so we’re not in an emergency situation.

In my previous post All About CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) in Plain English I have an entire section about what you should be doing to prepare. That to-do list is still very accurate and will certainly provide an excellent starting point on the road to becoming CASL compliant.

I should also mention that if you are a customer of Elite Email with a signup form (or link to Subscription Center) on your website, then you are already following the proper double opt-in process that CASL requires. After someone signs up through that form/link, they are sent a welcome/confirmation email to double-check they want to join your list. We capture that confirmation consent, date stamp, and log the IP, so you have that paper trail automatically. On the mobile marketing side, we have already made updates in response to the recent TCPA Guidelines, which really overlaps a lot with CASL in relation to SMS/text-message marketing. This means you can easily enable a double opt-in process on your mobile channels as well.

Will This End Up Being Good For Legitimate Marketers?

For now this new set of regulations is going to add a lot of work for marketers…. and no one likes “extra work”. So, in the short term, there will be grunts and groans.

However, there is a school of thought that once all the dust settles and everyone gets off the ledge (don’t jump!), legitimate marketers will actually have a better & easier time of getting their message through. Since non-compliant messages will be weeded out, we’re going to end up in an era where people really only get the emails they asked for. This means that the average consumer won’t have to sift through unwanted email to find your wanted message. It may only be your fully CASL compliant message sitting in their inbox, where they can eagerly see it, open it, and interact with it. Of course, only time will tell whether there is a net ROI gain for marketers who may see their list size decrease but engagement increase, but certainly there does remain a silver lining as everyone works towards implementing CASL compliance.

CASL Goes Live July 1, 2014

This blog post is intended to provide our general comments on the new law. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review nor is it intended to provide legal advice. Readers should not act on information in the publication without first seeking specific advice from their lawyer. In short, I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be a lawyer.

For the most complete information about CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)
please review the complimentary

Elite Email CASL Survival Guide

If you’re an email marketer you have undoubtedly heard of CASL, which is the acronym for “Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation”.

Does this new set of rules apply to you? YES!
Do you need to care about it? YES
Do you understand it? Well, uhh, hmm, kind of, maybe….

There’s lots of information about CASL already available online, but a lot of it is complicated, often riddled with legal jargon, and frankly just not written in plain English so you can gain some sort of handle on what this is all about. That is why we have customers calling us and saying they’ve read all about the new laws, but don’t understand it and are more confused when they started.

Let’s fix that and get you up to speed on the who, what, where, when and why of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation!

What is CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)?

CASL is the Canadian Government’s new weapon (or so they hope) in the fight against spam. It outlines new requirements and rules for how commercial electronic messages (CEM) are sent. The highlight reel for the goals of CASL are to prohibit:

  • Spamming (…I’m a prince from a far off land, can I borrow your bank account to park my billions of dollars…) [section 6]
  • Hacking (… imagine what I could do if I controlled your computer…) [section 7]
  • Malware / Spyware (…you didn’t know it, but you just installed a program on your computer so prepare for nonstop pop-up banner ads…) [section 8]
  • Fraud (… this week we’re having a 75% off sale… but surprise, it’s really only 15%….) [section 75]
  • Harvesting (… I’ll build a big email database by grabbing every email address ever published on the web…) [section 82 (2)]
  • Privacy Invasions (… I’ll just help myself to all of your personal information even without your permission…) [section 82 (3)]

The stated purpose of the law is: “An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy.”

Does This Law Affect Me?

Are you sending email from Canada? If so, the answer is yes.

Are you sending email to anyone in Canada even if you are located somewhere else? If so, the answer is yes.

The reason CASL could have a huge impact is because of this second question. The law is not just limited to Canadians, it takes effect any time a Canadian computer is used to access the email (or any commercial electronic message). So, if you’re in the USA, but your email newsletter also goes to those north of the border, then all these rules apply. Even if you’re somewhere overseas, the claim is that CASL is still in force.

This is what Andrea Rosen, the CRTC’s chief compliance and enforcement officer said:

If the spammer is offshore, we have the ability under the law to co-operate with foreign governments, to share information and to bring proceedings together against individuals that are offshore.

I don’t want to go into this quote too much…. but…. (please read this with the highest degree of saracasm)… good luck Canada!
I look forward to hearing about the case: CRTC vs. Random Spammer X located in a cave in a far off land sending emails about the best ways to enlarge your (use your imagination)

The funny thing is that all those “buy drugs from Canada” spam messages we receive usually aren’t sent from within Canada, so the enforcement is going to require this offshore cooperation. Again, good luck Canada!

It should be noted that there is a special exemption in CASL if the sender does not know or could not expect to know that the receiver was in Canada.

What are the main requirements of CASL?

The entire law is long (really long), but in a nut shell, these are the key requirements:

  • Permission must be obtained before sending email.
  • The permission must be able to be proved with clear consent.
  • No pre-checked boxes on forms. The consent must be an affirmative action. [<< Make sure you take note of this for any forms you use!]
  • No false or misleading subject lines or from names. The sender must be clearly defined.
  • Working unsubscribe mechanism. Any unsubscribe requests must be processed within 10 days and the unsubscribe link must be valid for 60 days after the send date.
  • You are not allowed to confirm unsubscribes by sending an “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe?” email.
  • Must include a valid postal mailing address (P.O boxes are fine) and one of the following: web address with contact form, email address or phone number.
  • If you are sending “on behalf of” another organization, both organizations must be identified.

It should also be noted that charity organizations are included in CASL if they are selling or soliciting anything.
If you’re an existing customer of Elite Email, then your email marketing activities are already abiding by a lot of these requirements.

What is Exempt from CASL?

There are a variety of things that are specifically excluded from the rules outlined in CASL. My theory is that this list will be expanded before things are finalized, but here are the main exemptions right now:

  • Email between family or people you have a personal relationship with (… phew, you won’t go to prison for emailing your aunt!)
  • Employees at one company emailing employees of another company, if the companies have a business relationship.
  • Responding to an inquiry that could be in the form of a question, complaint or solicitation.
  • Work-related emails sent between employees at the same company.
  • If someone requests more information from your company (could be for a quote, estimate, general information, membership inquiry, etc) then you can reply to them.
  • A charity can contact someone if they made a donation in the past 18 months.
  • Any legal message relating to a recall, copyright notice, or debt collection request.
  • One non-consent email can be sent for third party referrals provided that the person/organization making the referral has either a non-business or personal relationship with the recipient and sender. On top of that, the sender must clearly state who made the referral.
  • Transactional emails that do not contain any marketing language (<– We’re for sure going to see this further clarified.)

How Does CASL Define Consent?

The underlying key to CASL is consent, consent, consent. You just cannot do anything without consent.

CASL has mapped out four different circumstances that would qualify as consent.

  • Explicit Consent
    This is when the recipient gives you direct permission to email them. For example, if someone signs up for your mailing list using an online signup form that would qualify as explicit consent. But, remember, this type of consent cannot be obtained through opt-out, so make sure you don’t pre-check the “Yes, I want your mailings” box because that voids everything (… and then you do not pass go, do not collect $200, and you go straight to jail).
    You can also get oral or written consent, but this starts to get tricky because you have to be able to prove that consent was obtained. If you’re planning on getting consent using these methods, make sure you document everything very carefully so you can provide your case if it comes to that.
  • Implied Consent
    This type of consent takes the form of an existing business or non-business relationship between the sender and recipient. In the eyes of CASL, a “business relationship” is one where a customer has made a purchase from you or entered into a contract. A “non-business relationship” would be if someone does volunteer work for you or actually becomes part of your organization.
    One really important thing to note is the “2 Year Rule”. If someone purchased something from you in the past 2 years, then you can send them emails for 2 years from their purchase date under the implied consent criteria. However, during that time you must obtain explicit consent if you want to email them after the two years. Keep in mind that if this same person buys from you again during the two year period, the clock resets and you’ve got two more years before you need explicit consent.
  • Conspicuous Publication
    This is definitely an interesting part of the current draft of CASL. If you obtain someone’s email address and it meets these criteria, then you have qualified as having enough consent to email them. (1) Their email address is clearly published for viewing; (2) The address is not accompanied by a statement saying that they do not want to receive unsolicited messages; (3) the message is directly related to the person’s business or official role.
    Two important things to be aware of is that the clear publishing of the person’s email address must be done by the person directly or with the authorization of the person. So, a company website that lists an employee roster is legit, but some random website that posts a bunch of contact info is not OK. Also, the email you send must be highly related to the person’s job/role , which is very vague in the current draft. But, as an example, you can email a lawyer about a new law book, but you cannot email them about the cool new t-shirts you’re selling.
    The last thing on this topic is to keep in mind that PIPEDA prohibits the harvesting of addresses, so you cannot use a program to automatically capture this information from the web.
  • Shared Email Address with the Sender
    I call this the “business card” rule. If someone gives you their business card then you can email them stuff that is related to their job/role. Of course, they can also give you their email address in other ways, but the main thing is that they are willingly supplying you with their email address and not saying that they do not want to receive emails from you. Although, I can tell you that if someone hands you their business card and says “don’t email me” that probably isn’t a really good sales lead.

When Does It Take Effect?

Before we look at where we’re going, lets take a look back at where CASL has been:

  • May 25, 2010 :: Bill C-28 First Reading
  • Dec. 15, 2010 :: Royal Assent (Passed)
  • July 2011 :: Regulations Drafted
  • July 2011 :: Regulations “gazetted” for Review
  • Sept. 7, 2011 :: Draft Regulations Comment Deadline
  • Mar. 2012 :: CRTC Regulations Gazetted
  • Jan. 5, 2013 :: Industry Canada Draft Regulations Published for Comment
  • Mid 2013 :: Industry Canada Final Regulations
  • Mid 2014 (maybe?) :: CASL Takes Effect

So, the answer to when CASL will go live is still a topic of much debate. (Insert gasp here that the Canadian government moves slowly!)

CASL was recently delayed for a few reasons:

  • Still ironing out details as there are many unhappy parties (more on this later)
  • There is disagreement between Industry Canada and the CRTC about how the law should be regulated
  • There are expected mid-term cabinet changes and these shifts could skew priorities.

If you really want to make a note in your calendar, then current speculation is that the law will not be enforced until the Fall of 2014. This follows a one year grace period after everything is published this year. However, don’t be surprised if this gets delayed yet again.

On top of that, CASL will have a transition period once it comes into effect so that organizations have ample time to obtain the neccessary consent to ensure they are playing by these new rules.

What is the Penalty for Violating CASL?

Canada’s anti-spam law is not fooling around when it comes to the punishment for breaking the rules.

Penalties for violations can range from up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for companies.

Three interesting things to note about the enforcement of this are:

  • Any person can bring this law against a sender up to $1 million. But, if they are found to be incorrect, they will be required to pay court/legal fees. So, it’s not like if you avoid sending emails to the RCMP you can avoid getting in trouble because anyone can make a claim under this new legislation.
  • If you can demonstrate that you made very strong efforts (due diligence) to comply with all the rules and done everything to obtain proper consent, then that will play a factor in the event a lawsuit comes up. It is for this reason that it’s super important you keep track of everything so you can cover yourself later with a stronger case if things get messy.
  • Officers of an organization can also be held accountable for the messages sent out by their organization. Bottom line, YOU are responsible if you do bad things.

What is the Difference Between CASL and the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act?

There’s a long list of differences between these two sets of regulations, but the major differences are:

  • CASL requires express consent to send commercial messages. Basically, the recipient must “opt in” as opposed to the CAN-SPAM Act that mandates “opt out”. So, under the US law, you can send someone a first email as long as they can request no further messages, whereas under the Canadian law even that first email has you breaking the rules.
    Note: Email marketing best practices already encourages the opt in procedure as opposed to opt out.
  • CASL requires specific disclosure when an organization requests consent. Senders must clearly state the reason they are requesting consent, clearly identify themselves, provide contact information, and explain that consent can be withdrawn later. None of this appears in the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • The coverage for CASL covers email, text messages, instant messages, directly pushed social media messages, and installation of computer programs. The CAN-SPAM Act covers email.

 What Should You Be Doing to Prepare for CASL?

The good news is that if you are a customer of Elite Email, then you are already doing most things to comply with CASL. Built right into our online email marketing software is a process that makes sure you’re covered on a lot of these items. But, there are still some things I want to highlight so you’ve got a good checklist of items on your radar that you can be aware of.

  • Consent, consent, consent… it’s all about consent! We want to have bulletproof iron-clad proof that we’ve obtained consent properly and legitimately.
    • Record all sign-ups from your website.
    • Capture and record the IP address when the signup is first initiated and later confirmed.
    • Document how your relationship with someone began. Did they purchase from you? Did they signup online for your newsletter?
    • If you’re getting oral or written consent, make sure it’s something you can later prove. (This could be a challenge, so online signups or something with a digital papertrail is better.)
  • Take a detailed look at your database and try to figure out who you need to re-confirm with proper provable consent.
    • Are there customers who purchased from you 2 years ago that you won’t be able to email if they don’t re-confirm?
    • Are there contacts where you’d have a hard time proving their consent?
    • Are there contacts who haven’t engaged with your emails (opened or clicked) in a long time? If so, try to re-engage them or take them off your list.
  • When someone signs up for your mailing list, send them a welcome email to verify their subscription.
    • This double opt-in or closed-loop subscription process is important not only to comply with CASL, but also to make sure that a sneaky individual didn’t come to your website and signup using their arch enemies email address…. because then you might get spam complaints as well.
  • Make sure your subject lines and sender names are correct, clear and consistent. (The three “C’s” if you will.)
  • Have a working unsubscribe link and valid contact details so someone can reach you if they want to.
    • This includes monitoring replies you receive from your email so if someone says “remove me”, then you can do it right away.
    • Sending your emails from a no-reply address is a BAD thing.
  • Make sure your postal address is in your emails.
  • Take a look at your privacy policy as it relates to data collection to ensure it’s up-to-date and aligned with all the new CASL rules.

Remember that CASL is still evolving and being refined. No one knows yet exactly what the final set of rules will look like. So, while the above steps will keep your best foot forward, make sure you keep an ear to the ground so that if something does change you are not caught off-guard. Rest assured, the compliance team at Elite Email is also all over this!

What Are Some of The Criticisms of CASL?

There’s been a lot of backlash since CASL was originally proposed. For instance, there was a two month consultation period (ending on Sept. 7, 2011) where 55 different organizations raised their concerns to Industry Canada. As a result of that, a revised regulation was published on Jan. 5, 2013, but the criticisms certainly have not stopped.

I don’t want to go too much into this, however if you want to read more, Marketing Magazine has a good article titled “The Hidden Costs of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law“.

The one over arching theme from everyone who is complaining about this is not that they are against stopping spam. Everyone is on-board with stopping spam as no one needs more junk mail. The criticism is that this new law will do nothing to actually stop spam. It enforces a new, broad and strict set of rules on organizations that are already trying to do things properly, while really doing nothing to stop the worst offenders who are sending spam from a far off land. So, CASL is giving us more red tape and hoops to jump through, but what is it actually doing to benefit Canadian citizens?

On top of that, many in the small business community are outraged because to some it feels like these new laws put up serious barriers to using email effectively because they cannot afford to invest resources to wade through all the red tape. There has been a shift from sending paper flyers through Canada Post to email because it’s more effective, more measurable, more affordable, and definitely more environmentally conscious (to the joy of trees everywhere!). But, if the Canadian Government wants to clamp down on what can be sent through email, will it result in more junk filling up your physical mailbox?

Personally I think there are some good parts of CASL. In certain spots of the legislation you can really see the positive intent of what they are trying to accomplish. But, it’s gotten so bloated with this scenario and that scenario, that I fear the true intent is getting lost and in realty it may only result in punishing the people who were doing everything 99% correctly anyway.

You can get more information direct from the Canadian government at http://fightspam.gc.ca.

CASL - Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation


This blog post is intended to provide our general comments on the new law. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review nor is it intended to provide legal advice. Readers should not act on information in the publication without first seeking specific advice from their lawyer. In short, I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be a lawyer.


Today we have a guest blog post from my very good friend and seasoned email marketing veteran, Aubrey Stork.

Like other Email Marketers, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into finding fun and unique ways to build the opt-in subscriber lists for various organizations.  The truth of the matter is, if you don’t continue to deliver on your promise, all your list-building efforts are for not; your list will erode as quickly as you can say “See ya later alligator!”

Please Don't Unsubscribe

While some still use shady methods to minimize opt-outs like hiding the opt-out link and creating convoluted processes, retaining subscribers is best done through proper opt-in practices, optimal sending frequency and ensuring value is delivered with each and every communication.

Here are some of the biggest factors contributing to unsubscribes:

1. Shoddy Opt-in Process

Permission is paramount.  While this point has been driven home for years, it’s still prevalent with many organizations who simply add addresses they think should be added to their mailing lists without proper permission.  Marketers: list size is only one measurement of success.  If your mailing list is massive, but no one on your list cares about what you have to say, what’s the point?  Sending your message to those who haven’t opted-in not only goes against worldwide email best practices and is in direct violation of the E-Privacy Directive (and shortly CASL/FISA/Bill-C-28 in Canada), but it’s also a great disservice to your brand and will result in higher opt-out rates.

Single opt-in’s can also be an invitation for illegitimate sign-ups, so implement a double-opt in to maintain the integrity of your list.  Though on the surface, marketers see the double opt-in as an impedance to the process, it’s actually a fantastic opportunity.  Your new subscriber is more likely to open your double opt-in and welcome email than any other communication through your entire email relationship.  Take advantage and use these pieces as up-sell and profile-development opportunities.

2. Unfulfilled Promises

Sign-up now and get a free week membership!

Sign-up now to access your free white paper!

Sign-up today and receive a $50 gift card!

These incentives may be enough to get the opt-in, but it does little to set the expectation for the ongoing email relationship and may therefore translate to poor subscriber quality.  Tell the potential subscriber how you’re going to continue to provide value.  Include the ongoing promise in the call-to-action.  For example, “Sign-up now to access your free white paper and receive exclusive access to research every quarter!”

During the sign-up process, include a link to your latest newsletter to demonstrate that you’re living up to your promise and continuing to offer value to subscribers.

3. Wrong Frequency

Frequency is a balancing act.  With consumers being exposed to as many as 5,000 brands each day, you don’t want to inundate your subscribers with information too frequently, but you need also need to stay present so that they don’t forget who you are and the value you bring.

Some studies show that a communication every 3-4 weeks is ideal, however; this really depends on your business, your customers/subscriber base and your content.

One of the key benefits to email is the ability to run tests and get quick, accurate results.  So, see what difference a week makes with your subscribers and try testing frequency:  Take 2 samples of your database.  Send to 1 sample a week in advance of your regular sending time.  Send to the other sample 1 week after your normal sending time.  See how they compare to the rest of your subscribers.  Were the open rates higher?  How about the click-through rates?  If there’s no significant difference, keep this going for a few months (4-6 months should begin to show some variance).  Continue this sort of test to further refine and find the optimal frequency foryour subscriber base.*

Your optimal frequency can also be driven by content, which brings us to the next point…

4. Poor Content

While still considering all of the above, if you have an engaged audience who recognizes the value of your email, frequency will matter less than an exchange of valuable content.  The biggest factor driving opt-outs is irrelevant or too much content within a given communication.  Another key benefit of email is the ability to easily target your message.  Make sure everyone your sending to will care about what you have to say: target your messages accordingly.

If you’re trying to maintain a certain frequency but you don’t have content to pique the interest of everyone in your database, consider the following:

  • Add dynamic content to ensure that regardless of the story/stories being featured, there’s something individually pertinent to each recipient.  For example, if you’re a Realtor and you’re sending information to your client base on increasing rates, someone who just locked into their mortgage for 5 years may not be interested, however; if you can highlight homes in the specific recipient’s area, this will provide value to the subscriber.  Or, if you run a gym you could include an exercise of the week that’s tailored to the type of workout the recipient does (cardio, weights, classes, etc.) alongside your primary message.
  • Include polls.  If you include a poll, regardless of the editorial content, you’re providing something for your subscriber to engage with, not to mention that polls can build on your recipient profiles which can in turn help you continue to refine and tailor your content.
  • Include social feeds.  Similar to polls, this could be another way to engage your subscriber.  Even if your recipient doesn’t relate to the content in your current newsletter, the communication is an opportunity to build brand ambassadors in the social space.  Get them involved by showing the latest – and most compelling – conversations about your organization on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

If you have the opposite problem, too much content, organize it dynamically or target reordered variations of your message based on the recipient’s profile or past interaction(s) with your newsletter(s).  In any case, keep the content within your newsletter to a minimum.  Include teaser-text and link out to the full story, not only to keep the message clean and clear, but also to be able to accurately measure engagement and better understand the kind of information most important to your subscriber.

Over and Out

Building a high-quality subscriber base can be tough work, so be sure to treat every communication as a privilege and not a right in order to continually engage and retain your subscribers.  Leverage the power of email with testing, personalization, segmentation and dynamic content to refine your efforts.  Above all, never forget about the promise you made when your subscriber signed-up; ask yourself if each recipient will find value in your email before hitting send.

 *This is a simple test method that requires all other variables to remain consistent (i.e. content, day and time deployed, other communications with your organization, etc.)

For 10 years, Email Strategist Aubrey Stork has been making meaningful connections with customers, clients, prospects and donors through email. His strategic approach blends the experience of bringing both technical and creative solutions to many of the world’s most recognized brands.  As a trusted partner, you can count on Aubrey to deliver strategic email solutions that effectively address your unique business challenges.

Is your audience disengaged?  Is your share of wallet what it could be?  Are you caught in a cycle of expensive customer acquisition due to high churn?  Connect with Aubrey today to learn how your business challenges might be effectively and efficiently addresses with email.


We all know that over the years politicians have developed a less than stellar reputation. But, in the back of my mind, even through all the scandals, mud slinging and broken promises, I’d like to believe that deep down inside the key political figures of our time can still in some sense lead by example. As it turns out, especially from the perspective of an email marketing guy, that is not true.

Elite Email has learned that defeated Presidential Candidate New Gingrich is actually selling the email database of his donors in an effort to dig his campaign out of the $4 million debt.

Personally, I am disgusted by this because I cannot believe someone who was vying for the Presidency of the United States could so easily turn their back on supporters. I mean, if Newt Gingrich could not follow the privacy policy on his website (see below), how could he possibly have been in charge of foreign policy for America?!

The privacy policy on his campaign website says:

“We are committed to protecting your privacy online.”

Clearly they are not trying very hard! The campaign is selling the donor database (complete with email address and other personal details) through a brokerage firm named TMA Direct. What this means is that anyone who donated to the Newt 2012 campaign is going to have their information exposed and will likely start receiving a lot more spam. Moreover, this spam will be of the worst kind because the database isn’t just your email address, it’s your other personal details, too.

To make matters worse, the Gingrich campaign is also doing “email appending”. What this means is that if you donated to the campaign, but did NOT give your email address, they can still use all your other personal information to get your email address. Once they have that, they bundle it all together and sell your complete record.

This is covered by this part of the campaign’s privacy policy:

“We may obtain information about you from outside sources and add it to or combine it with the information we collect”

This is really a bad practice that all email markers frown upon because it means that even though you didn’t give your email address to the campaign and definitely did not provide consent to receive emails, they can still email you…. and now they are selling your data!

You can read our full press release here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/email-marketing/newt-gingrich/prweb9512721.htm

One of the first things we teach anyone who is working at Elite Email is about permission mailing lists, opt-in, and consent. We ensure that everyone here understands what “email marketing best practices” are, what the “spam laws” are, and how we can ensure the integrity of our network by only sending legitimate email marketing campaigns so they can teach & coach our customers. It is terrible to see a political candidate completely balk at all of this and do something so blatantly against the rules.

I understand that political campaigns are expensive, and I understand that the Gingrich campaign being in debt is not good news for then… but sacrificing the privacy of your donors as a remedy to me is way way over the line.

As one last little tidbit of interesting information…. the price that is being charged for your data is actually higher if you were a “big donor” and lower if you were a “small donor”.

© 2013 Elite Email Inc. Blog Admin