In the past few weeks you have likely seen more and more emails in your in box requesting consent to continue to send you electronic communications. That is because the anti-spam laws are changing in Canada on July 1st. And please note, the change is not just for marketers in Canada – it applies to companies and organizations marketing to Canadians as well.

The laws are designed to put an end to unsolicited emails hitting our in-box which we can all agree is a good thing.

The truth of the matter is we should only ever communicate to people who have given us permission to market to them. It needs to be clear to the individual that they have given permission (and for what) and it must always be easy for people to unsubscribe from your list. With the new law, not only do you need to get consent, you will also need to be able to demonstrate to the government how you received this consent. 

Have your customers really given you permission?

For “permission to market” to meet the standards of the government, your customers need to give you express consent to receive marketing communications from you.

If your customer bought a product or service from you, participated in a contest, downloaded something for free or handed you a business card (and you never specifically discussed or confirmed that they would be put on your email marketing list) you only have implied consent to market to these people. If you want to get express consent from anyone who until now only gave you implied permission, you need to reach out to this group before July 1st. Although you can continue to market to this group until 2017, after July 1st, asking this group to opt-in via email marketing will be in violation of the new law.

I realize this sounds really scary to some people. “What if I send out an email to the 800 people on my list and only 40 respond?”. Hopefully your list of users who have implied consent is smaller than the list with express consent. If you don’t know the difference, well that is unfortunate, and your list will likely shrink, but on the upside, the people staying on your list are most likely your target audience.

Get all the details about this new law.

I am not a legal expert and I don’t even play one on TV. I am however a bit of a geek and I have found a whole bunch of great resources that should help you get this all figured out and handled.

Great on-line resources:

Canada’s new anti-spam laws and the $10 Million bounty. Not sure if you are spamming? This link has a test that can help you figure that out.

CASL Survival Guide – by Elite Mail – in depth and super useful resource.

Vigorate Digital Solutions has great resources including a database checklist, campaign check list and a series of videos with Canadian Privacy Lawyer Shaun Brown.

Government resources:

Fight Spam – Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation web site. Official resource.

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Includes videos and info graphics.

Best Practices for creating a permission based list.

From this day forward, you need to make sure you are collecting express consent to market to your wonderful audience. One of the best ways to do that is use an email marketing service to manage your lists and communicate with your audience. Many of the solutions out there offer free options for small businesses (no excuses regardless of what size you are) and they force you to follow industry standards and best practices. They have code that enables you to easily add opt-in forms to your web sites. Some providers also have tablet apps that you can use to collect addresses in store or at events (even when you are off-line).

Most email providers also have useful information on their sites on how to get ready for the new changes:

Constant Contact resources.

Mad Mimi resources.

Mail Chimp resources.

Aweber Communications resources.

I am curious, how will this law change how you build your mailing list?