Permission-Based Email Marketing – A Detailed Guide

Written by: Chris Donald

Published on: 06-30-2023

Chris is Managing Partner at InboxArmy and has more than 25 years of experience in email marketing

Often, unsolicited email marketing can be rather annoying. Just like you wouldn’t go to a party uninvited, email marketing follows a rather similar set of etiquette, and you should not send emails to your prospects if you do not have their consent.  

This article dives into a detailed tell-all about permission-based email marketing and its significance for your business.

What Is Permission-Based Email Marketing?

Permission-based email marketing is when your prospects opt-in or choose to receive your marketing messages via email. They give you their formal permission to add them to your mailing list and send your marketing emails. 

You can implement a Single opt-in (SOI) or Double opt-in (DOI) to obtain consent. 

While SOI is a single-step process to collect your prospect’s email during sign-up, DOI involves a two-step subscription process and includes email confirmation after the sign-up.

Types Of Permission For Marketing Emails – Express And Implied 

Types Of Permission For Marketing Emails - Express And Implied 

There are two main variants of Permission-based email marketing. Here is a rundown of both.

Express Permission

To obtain explicit permission for marketing emails, you can use a pop-up form on your website or a landing page on social media. You can also send preliminary emails, use website pop-ups, CTAs on blogs, or surveys to collect consent.

Additionally, sending a reminder email to opt-out subscribers can help gauge their interest.

Implied Permission

Implied permission occurs when people provide their contact information without explicitly indicating their interest in receiving marketing emails.

For example, if you have an ongoing business relationship with clients, associates, vendors, or website users, their contact details imply permission to email them.

However, it’s essential to exercise discretion before sending promotional emails regularly or irrelevantly. Differentiating between express and implied permission ensures you deliver appropriate messages to the right audience, increasing the likelihood of turning subscribers into potential customers.

Advantages Of Implementing Permission-Based Email Marketing

When you carry through permission-based email marketing for your brand, it translates into the following benefits:

Better Engagement Rates

When people want to hear from your or receive your emails and give you their consent to send them your marketing content, the chances of them opening your emails tend to be higher. This will most likely reflect in the form of higher open rates and deliverability rates with lower unsubscribes and much lesser chances of being flagged as spam.

Potentially Higher Conversion Rates

Prospects who have given you their explicit approval to send your marketing email will not only engage with your email but are more likely to convert. In this way, permission-based email marketing can help you generate sales.

Helps Maintain Compliance

Obtaining consent through email opt-in forms enables you to observe the regulations, avoid heavy legal and financial penalties, as well as getting tagged as spam and other issues related to email deliverability.

Builds Trust In Your Brand

Permission-based email marketing helps you build positive connotations for your brand. Rather than bombarding them with your email marketing content, your show your prospects that you respect their privacy as individuals, value their approval, and do consider them as leads.

Asking for consent before emailing your subscribers can thus help bolster your brand reputation and build an audience that is happy to receive your emails.

Enhanced The Overall Value of The Email

When you send emails to subscribers who have permitted you to send your emails, they’ll likely be less opposition to your content. This makes it easier for you to capture their attention and influence them to engage with your CTA – thereby enhancing your email marketing ROI.

Facilitates Creation of Tailored Content

Permission email marketing helps gain valuable customer insights and data, including names, phone numbers, email addresses, addresses, and more.  

When you enter these details in a mailing list, this organized information helps you to send targeted content to your specific audiences based on their interests and other demographics. This information will also enable you to create more targeted and effective campaigns.

Strategies To Implement Permission-Based Email Marketing And Improve Your Email Opt-In Rate

Strategies To Implement Permission-Based Email Marketing And Improve Your Email Opt-In Rate

Here are some simple ways to increase opt-ins for your permission-based email marketing campaigns.

1) Select A Compelling Lead Magnet.

Lead magnets include special limited-period offers, whitepapers, free downloads, and other such assets that are offered to prospects, intending to motivate them to share their email address with you. Since you are hopeful of getting the prospect’s email, ensure that your lead magnets are captivating and relevant to your audience.

For instance, attract your audience to sign up for your cookery series by sharing a quick glimpse via a video teaser. This will likely captivate your audience’s interest and motivate them to take up your offer.

2) Provide Opt-In Boxes When Collecting Email Addresses.

After identifying your lead magnet, you can promote it on your website, using an opt-in form to obtain consent in return for your compelling offers.

The earlier practice was to insert disclaimers at the end of a popup box informing those downloading lead magnets that they would receive marketing emails. This, however, is not GDPR compliant.

Instead, creating a specific opt-in checkbox enabling people to opt-in to your emails is a better option. It’s your decision whether the freebies are only on joining the email list. If you decide not to give a choice, ensure your users have to click on the checkbox -indicating they’ve permitted you.

Social media, paid ads, webinars, and checkouts are alternative ways to collect your subscriber email addresses.

3) Enable Double Opt-Ins

Many brands also use double opt-ins to secure explicit permission before giving subscribers the lead magnet. It requires the prospects to first share their email address through a form or email popup

The next step involves sending them a confirmation email before including the subscriber in the list or sending them their lead magnet. Here, the subscriber has to click on the confirmation link to confirm if they want to become a subscriber and receive your marketing emails by 

4) Implement Segmentation

Email segmentation helps you organize your email list based on critical demographics and other parameters. In this way, you can send more targeted messages, which your subscribers will be likely to respond positively to.

5) Provide The Option To Unsubscribe: 

Sending unsolicited emails will force prospects to mark you as spam. Ensure that the opt-out button is visible in all your emails (No teeny-tiny fonts or puzzle-solving activities to unsubscribe or opt-out).

You could also remind subscribers periodically that they can opt-out if your emails are causing a disturbance. Likewise, you can offer a temporary unsubscribe option for those who may only be interested in one particular type of campaign. This will protect your brand image and also ensure your subscribers stay on.

For example, offer a temporary unsubscribe for Father’s Day emails, so all these emails won’t bother your subscribers. 

6) Automate

Automating permission-based email marketing tasks will help boost your opt-in rates in a cost and time-efficient way. You can streamline tasks, including email retargeting, and reduce the volume of manual tasks while achieving the desired outcomes more efficiently.

Leveraging automation will also enable you to broaden your reach and build your email list quickly.

7) Run Regular Tests To Enhance Your Emails.

Regular testing of the components of your email marketing messages, including subject lines, templates, copy, images, tone of voice, CTAs, and other general content, will help you understand what clicks with your subscribers.

You can leverage your findings to design your emails for higher engagement and conversion rates.

What To Avoid For Permission-Based Email Marketing

What To Avoid For Permission-Based Email Marketing

Not all email marketing content is permission-based. A heads-up on the list-building tactics which are not permission-based will help you steer clear of the following options:

1) Purchasing A List of Leads

Most often, companies sell these lists, which they have skimmed off from websites – they can not even be considered as leads.

2) Purchasing Contact Details

Some organizations sell their authentic data for a price to buyers. This compromises the privacy and security of those who will-fully signed up in the first place without expecting their personal information to be sold for a price.

3) Data From Social Media

Scouring social media or websites for email addresses and then cold emailing is a common practice, especially in B2B businesses. This is best avoided as it is not permission-based.

Now that you know what to avoid, you can confidently build an authentic permission-based email list that will help enhance your ROIs.

What Happens When Brands Send Emails Without Permission?

When you send emails to people without receiving their permission, they will likely report your campaigns as spam. Also, if you cross a certain threshold of people reporting your emails as spam, the ISP may denylist you, and any email you send to anyone on their network will get blocked. Notably, it’s not easy to get removed once you’ve made it to a denylist.

Moreover, while cold-emailing may be considered inappropriate in the US, it is outright illegal in GDPR-regulated countries, including the European Union, where there are heavy penalties for violation. 

Furthermore, your prospects will be less motivated to engage with your campaigns or convert.

Permission-Based Email Marketing Best Practices

Now that you have a fair idea about how to get your permission-based email marketing functional consider these easy-to-implement best practices to enhance your campaign:

1) Build An Authentic Emailing List

Strictly avoid purchasing ready email lists. Firstly you do not have permission to send them emails, and you could end up with huge penalties. 

Secondly, as the chances of those people being interested in your content are low, it will negatively impact your click-through rates and potentially your brand’s image.

2) Provide Clarity About Your Email Sends

Sending people a blitzkrieg of emails in a short time can annoy even the most tolerant. Be clear at the start and provide details about the frequency of your emails when seeking permission from your prospects. 

Likewise, let your prospects know the type of content (promotional emails, newsletters, blogs, etc.) you typically send out. This helps them decide if they want your email content. 

3) Implement Waitlists

It enables prospects to express a continued interest in your emails after being waitlisted. In fact, waitlists help markets to gauge interest in their product. If more users consent to join the waitlist, you can infer that your audience is interested in your idea.

4) Maintain List Relevance

If you’ve not engaged with prospects for more than six months, ideally seek their permission before sending your emails through re-engagement campaigns and/or list scrubbing. The latter involves sending an email requesting your subscribers to grant permission or get unsubscribed. If you don’t get a response and a set period, you should remove them from your email list. 

5) Quality Vs. Quantity

Subscribers often experience email fatigue and opt out of brands that send them email messages at short gaps. Therefore, a more viable strategy may be focusing on quality viz-a-viz quantity of emails.

6) Leverage Social Proof

Complement your permission-seeking initiatives with the positive feedback your brand has generated. Leverage your social proof, such as reviews/testimonials from happy customers, videos of influencers discussing your brand, and/or implementing tickers to display your subscriber numbers.

15 Inspiring Examples of Permissions for Marketing Emails

1) Straightforward Pop-Up 

Straightforward Pop-Up


This simple, straightforward pop-up spells out the nature of the content, the frequency, and its objective for seeking the subscriber’s permission to be added to their email marketing list. It collects minimum details and also assures the security of its prospects’ data, thereby motivating people to give it a try.

2) Excitement About The Brand

Excitement About The Brand


At the outset, fashion brand Nasty Gals builds excitement in the headline by positioning its permission pop-up as an invitation to a party. This will connect well with its target audience, who indicate their consent to receiving marketing emails by sharing their email address. Notably, the form also provides the option to refuse.

3) Rewards For Subscribing

Rewards For Subscribing


This minimalist pop-up is easy to read. The bold headline reflects the email list-building purpose of the pop-up. The reward mentioned immediately below the headline helps influence a quick decision. The potential subscribers have to simply provide their email addresses, indicating their permission for the brand to send them emails.

4) Segmentation At Source

Segmentation At Source


This pop-up efficiently seeks the prospect’s permission while offering them a choice to select the content they would like to receive. While it helps the brand build a highly segmented list for sending relevant emails to the right target audiences, it will also ensure that the subscriber does not get overwhelmed with irrelevant content.

5) Permission Review Email

Permission Review Email


This email seeks the repeat consent of existing subscribers vis-a-vis marketing emails. Notably, the personalized letter sets the tone for the interaction. The brand shows respect for the subscriber’s time and attention by asking them about their preferences and also providing insights about the content they share. The clear CTA and the option to unsubscribe enhance the credibility of this email.

6) Updating Consent And Contact Details

Updating Consent And Contact Details


This permission-seeking email comprises two distinct and visually well-demarcated segments. The primary message about the legal requirement for consent and prominent CTA options is set against a greyscale background for enhanced visibility. The second half of the message visually depicts the advantages of staying informed. It also includes prominent options to change content preferences or opt out.

7) Consent To Receive Support

Consent To Receive Support


NHS’s permission-seeking email is refreshingly creative and empathetic with its subscribers. Instead of a monotonous Yes-No response about receiving email communications, it offers subscribers a wholesome opportunity to affirm their commitment to quitting smoking with NHS support. The social media handles in the email encourage meaningful interactions, while the option to unsubscribe empowers subscribers with the power to choose.

8) Compliance-Driven Permission Email

Compliance-Driven Permission Email


Leading software platform Hubspot sends this simple message to its subscribers explaining the need for their consent to remain opted in. The message outlines the implications for those opting out and provides clarity on what it offers those who choose to remain. The personalization, distinct CTA, use of the company logo, and customer support details enhance the credibility of this request and influence assent.

9) Capture Leads

Capture Leads


This pop-out design is ideal for brands looking for permission-based opportunities to capture leads, promote sign-ups, or offer exclusive content. The simple design, attention-drawing headline, and interesting offer make it hard to give it a pass. The clear CTAs providing both options – to subscribe and refuse- facilitate convenient responses.  

10) Permission To Re-Engage

Permission To Re-Engage


This email from CNBC seeks permission to re-engage with an existing subscriber who has been unsubscribed due to a lack of engagement. The personalized message and polite tone seeking to re-engage highlight the brand’s commitment to offering its subscribers meaningful interactions. The CTA button is displayed, and by clicking on it, subscribers indicate consent to receive emails.

11) Mobile-First Approach

Mobile-First Approach


This email by clothing brand Jack Wills is aimed at complying with its recently revised privacy policy. The ‘Touch Here’ CTA in place of a ‘Click Here’ option indicates a mobile-first approach to the brand. Users are directed to a landing page where there can confirm the opt-in and get additional information on the recent changes.

12) List Clean-Up Time

List Clean-Up Time


This email from Nintendo seeks the consent of inactive subscribers before resending marketing emails. Sent as part of a list-cleaning exercise, the light-hearted design resonates with Ninendo’s target audiences. The email outlines the benefits of subscribing and provides a distinct CTA for those continuing. It also provides information for those who wish to unsubscribe or who do not respond to the email.

13) Unconventional Unsubscribes

Unconventional Unsubscribes


This unconventional email nudges inactive subscribers to engage with the brand’s emails. It uses a reverse approach, informing subscribers about the gift of unsubscribing them to lessen their inbox clutter. But before doing so, it subtly mentions which content the subscriber won’t receive unless they were opt-in by clicking the prominent CTA button.

14) Sleek And Unobtrusive

Sleek And Unobtrusive


This sleek and stylish pop-up is designed to appear near the corner of your screen to minimize interruption of the user experience but is visible at all times. By submitting their email address, users express their consent to receive emails from the brand

15) Multilevel Permissions

Multilevel Permissions


This unique pop-up comprises three CTA buttons to direct visitors toward critical actions and buttons to visit the store pages. The main CTA, ‘Join the List,’ is like joining the list used in a distinct color, different from the other, so that it draws maximum attention.


If you’re new to email marketing or have not implemented permission-based email marketing earlier, it’s a good idea to integrate it into your strategy now. It will help you achieve better outcomes with an audience that has consented to receive updates about your brand and what you offer. 

This article should help you successfully apply permission-based email marketing to your business. But, if you still prefer a professional agency to help you take it a notch further, do get in touch with us at Inbox Army. We work with brands and agencies and email service providers, delivering the entire spectrum of managed email marketing services.

About Author

Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies. For more information follow him on linkedin

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