Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’re likely aware that email marketing is one of the fastest and most cost-efficient ways to capture the attention of potential customers. However, before you click “send” you need to understand the importance of staying in compliance when you send marketing emails and other commercial electronic messages (CEMs), such as text messages. 

In 2014, Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) was created to clearly define the best practices in email marketing and combat spam in Canada. If your business is found to be in violation of CASL regulations, it can be penalized up to a hefty $10 million per violation. 

Email Marketing for Business

How do you stay within the regulations of CASL?

Firstly, you need implied or express consent from any recipient before sending them a marketing email. 

  • Express consent means you received either written or verbal permission to contact the recipient (e.g. they checked a box to receive marketing emails from your company when making an account). 
  • Implied consent is a little less straightforward, but it can mean you already have a business relationship with the recipient, for example. 

Learn more about the definitions of implied and express consent directly from the government’s information about consent.

Secondly, you need to ensure your communications aren’t engaging in prohibited behaviours, such as the following:  

  • Installing computer programs without consent (e.g. clicking a link in your email unknowingly downloads software or updates)
  • Includes false or misleading information (e.g. advertising promotions that don’t exist)
  • Sending information to a different destination from the one the sender specified (e.g. using personal details to send a marketing text when the recipient only signed up for email-based communication)

This is a short summary, for more prohibited behaviours, visit the government’s information on CASL.

What are some CASL-compliant email marketing tips to grow your business? 

  • Add  an email sign-up form to your website

Many businesses have a single page dedicated to signing up for communications. This isn’t an effective method as it’s unlikely visitors are on your website to sign-up for your emails, so they’ll miss the opportunity entirely. 

You need to make it as easy as possible for people to join your mailing list, so provide many opportunities on your website – consider a sign-up CTA on your homepage, on your ‘contact us’ page, and in your main website footer. If applicable, also include a sign-up option at the end of blog posts and an opt-in to marketing emails at the end of e-commerce check-out pages. Also, only ask for the essential details – the most effective sign-up forms only ask for an email address, nothing else. 

  • Create an incentive to sign up for emails 

This tip works alongside tip #1 but can also be used offline, too. Without an incentive to give away an email address, many will choose not to sign up for your marketing emails – after all, what’s in it for them? Use simple messaging that states your incentive alongside your sign-up forms (online and in-store) to entice people to give you their email addresses. 

Here are a few ideas of what to offer to get people to sign up: 

    • A 10% discount on their next purchase
    • Exclusive promo codes with limited-time offers and discounts
    • A $5 credit added to their online account

Remember, to follow CASL rules, you must actually provide the incentive you’re advertising.

  • Host a giveaway for a boost of recipients

A giveaway is a great way of quickly getting prospects’ email addresses and ultimately boosting your email marketing list. Moreover, you can capture the attention of a wide audience by advertising your giveaway online, in-store and on social media platforms. 

To ensure you’re complying with CASL, you must make it obvious to people that enter that by providing their email address, they’re opting in to marketing emails as well as entering the giveaway. You can either provide an additional check box to opt-in to marketing emails, or you can have a condition that states they’re agreeing to receive marketing emails when signing up to the giveaway. 

As a final pointer, people need to feel it’s worth their while to hand over their email addresses. The more lucrative the giveaway, the more likely people will enter.

  • Create a monthly newsletter

Once you have a solid, CASL-compliant email list, consider starting a monthly newsletter. A monthly newsletter is a great way of compiling a variety of content into one compact email. Consider including content that answers the following – what good news happened this month for your business? What’s a new product in stock people have been asking for? Are you hosting any events in the next month? Having an insightful and humbling monthly email helps customers to feel like a part of your community, rather than simply another customer you’re looking to sell to. 

Email marketing is great for business, but be sure to keep to CASL guidelines

One of the best ways to spread the word about your business is through email, but if you’re found to be in violation, the penalties can be costly. Always ensure you and your team are aware of what you can and cannot do when collecting email addresses and sending marketing communications in Canada.

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About the Author: Lauren Barber