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We’ve always said that “permission” is one of the most crucial aspects of your email marketing campaign. Usually people consider this a “don’t be evil” approach: “don’t piss off your customers, even if it makes you a buck, capiche?”. But the importance of permission goes far beyond “do the right thing”, and is actually a really effective tactic for email marketing.

It’s no secret that email marketing performs really well. According to ExactTarget “80% of marketers cite email as best performing medium” however email ROI appears to be declining every year (according to the Direct Marketing Association).
“On average, we expect open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates will decline in 2009 as subscribers’ in-boxes are flooded with bad email from marketers trying to stay afloat.”

Morgan Stewart, ExactTarget


One word:


(ok, not only spam, but it is a major factor in user unwillingness to open email)

Harris Interactive (2003) found that 79% of Americans declared themselves “somewhat annoyed” to “very annoyed” by unsolicited email, including content that was not typical spam.

What is spam?

Technically, unsolicited bulk commercial email, but what’s more important is what your users consider spam. According to an Exact Target study:

  • 56% consider a message from a known sender spam if it isn’t interesting
  • 50% consider messages from known senders that are sent too frequently to be spam
  • 48% are using “report spam” buttons for reasons other than to report unsolicited email

Why Permission?

Switching to opt in strategies can have great effects. Some marketers have reported seeing click rates jump from fractions of a percent to 10% or higher. By setting up a permission campaign for our client we watched as their sales conversion rate increased 211%!

In 2001 IMT Strategies found that seventy-six percent of consumers would delete an unsolicited email without opening it, but if that email were the result of a permission campaign only 2% deleted it.
Forrester found that 40% of people said they opened commercial emails because they recognized the sender as a company they signed up with.

Card communications Q1 2007 report on email trends concluded that:
“Smaller lists lead to higher results in deliverability, open and click-through rates. We’ve seen this in past reports. Segmentation is crucial to compete in today’s crowded inboxes. No surprise here! ”

Permission is not just a strategy to assure that you don’t spam. It’s not a solution based around “karma”, it is an effective marketing strategy that is one of the only ways to fight back against public perception that the email you spend is not worth looking at.


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