Since Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect on July 2014, CASL compliance has been a source of concern for Canadian businesses relying on email marketing. Somewhat similar to the American CAN-SPAM Act and the EU’s GDPR, the law imposes a series of restrictions on any emails sent as part of a “commercial activity.” Despite potential fines of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses. However, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has only issued a total of 7 undertakings since 2014. This is mainly because once understood, the rules imposed by CASL are quite easy to work within. Let’s quickly look at what constitutes “consent” according to CASL. After, we’ll provide tips on how to acquire consent, while adhering to CASL compliance.
CASL requires that businesses obtain consent from an individual or other business before sending promotional emails. However, the definition of consent allows some flexibility on how it can be acquired. Let’s review the two forms that consent can take:
Express consent is very straightforward. This would take the form of a recipient specifically opting-in to receive emails. You can collect express consent verbally (e.g., in person, over the phone, etc.), or in writing (e.g., opt-in form, written letter/email, etc.). Express consent lasts until the recipient chooses to expressly op-out. It’s important to keep a documented history of opt-ins, preferably in an automated manner.
Implied consent refers to the two ways recipients can be contacted without expressly opting-in to receive email communication. First, you can contact a customer who has purchased your goods/services by email for up to 2 years after said purchase (unless they later choose to opt-out). Second, if the recipient has inquired about a brand’s product or service. In this case, the recipient can be contacted by email for up to 6 months after the inquiry has been made (unless, again, they later choose to opt-out).
A Few More Things About Consent…
Always remember that a recipient can opt-out of receiving further email communication at any time. It is your responsibility to include a working “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” link in every promotional email. Further, the brand seeking to acquire consent must ensure they are doing so honestly. This means the brand must clearly identify themselves, and be clear about who they are acquiring consent from.
Now that we know what constitutes consent, let’s look at some best practices for acquiring it…
6 Tips for Working Within CASL:
1. Publish Regular Content
Maintaining regularly updated web content can be difficult but it plays a crucial role in converting website visitors into email recipients. Regular, relevant content on your website will encourage visitors to opt-in to receiving email updates and your future content. This can take the form of regular blog posts, videos, how-to-guides, etc. Bill Gates once remarked, “content is king,” and this phrase is as true today as it was in 1996; content will drive more people to your site, and help build your email list.
2. Easily-Identifiable Opt-in Box
Driving traffic to your website is an excellent first step, but now you want to retain that traffic. Make sure to have an easy-to-spot “opt-in” box so that visitors will become subscribers. Opting-in counts as express consent, meaning that consent has no expiry date. Some popular spots for opt-in forms include the contact page, blog posts, and checkout forms on e-commerce sites. For an example, scroll down to the bottom of this page to see our subscription opt-in form – oh, and don’t forget to sign up!
3. Engage on Social Media
If your website is the destination, then social media is the fast lane that helps drive visitors to it. Engagement on social media does not constitute consent, express or implied, but it provides you with a platform to share and distribute the valuable content you produce. It allows you to interact directly with potential customers, increasing the likelihood they will visit your website for more information. Finally, social media is a fantastic medium for getting the word out about contests and promotional events, which brings us to tip number 4.
4. Run Contests and Polls
Organizing occasional contests and polling are powerful ways to collect email addresses through express consent. As a requirement of entering the contest, ask that entrants fill in their email, and then consent to receive future communications. This way you can reach out to all those who entered with promotional material. Further, combining effective contests with social media engagement can lead to widespread sharing and greater exposure to your email list.
5. Reach Out to Other Businesses
If your activities are mostly B2B, be aware that CASL constraints are far less restrictive for contacting other businesses. As long as a) potential prospects have published their email addresses online, or in some other, easily visible location, and b) your product/service is relevant to companies you are looking to contact, this counts as implied consent for the purposes of CASL. Think2Grow previously published a longer blog post on B2B marketing and CASL, which can be found here.
6. Collect Emails in Person
Sometimes the good old-fashioned way is still the best way. Express consent can just as easily be collected in person, as over the internet. Whenever meeting or speaking with potential or current clients, exchange email information and ask whether you can email them more information on your products/services. They can always opt-out if they so choose at a later date.
CASL doesn’t have to be intimidating; with a clear understanding of what constitutes consent, you can easily navigate the confines of CASL. The best way to obtain express consent is by offering something of value to your site visitors. By creating content, organizing contests/giveaways, engaging with your customers on social media, etc., more people will want to consent to receive email because they know they will gain something of value in return.
B2B email marketing in Canada is more difficult with CASL compliance in effect. But, it is still alive and well if you know how to work within it. Common sense should be your guide. Don’t send too many emails, too frequently, provide education or other value, and BE RELEVANT!
Randy Fougere | Founder and President – I have helped companies grow faster for more than 25 years. With deep expertise in marketing, sales and leadership, I started Think2Grow to help mid-sized B2B clients accelerate sales with thoughtful, results-driven marketing services and programs. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org