Wedding season kicked into high gear this month as members of our own Sugar Market, previously Salesfusion, family got married. Congrats, Kate! Congrats, Ming! It recently occurred to me that weddings are a great analogy for permission in your email marketing. Here’s why I draw this comparison.

Planning a wedding takes a lot of time, investment, and thought about who to invite to your special day. Drawing up a guest list can be a very precise task and planning your wedding is no small feat. Do you want a small and cozy wedding? Destination wedding? Big and over-the-top? No matter what type of event you have, inviting guests to share in your nuptials requires you to extend an invitation to family, friends, relatives, and even acquaintances.

All of the guests you include are personally invited by you – and you have granted them permission to attend your party. Some guests you may know well, others you may invite because you have to include (like your crazy Aunt Bertha), but nevertheless, all guests are requested to partake in the festivities.

Think of your inbox in terms of your wedding. It’s filled with email messages from your friends, family, co-workers, associations, companies you have done or want to do business with, and anyone else you have provided your email address to. You have given your permission for these emails to join you in your inbox. Your sacred inbox, like your special wedding day, is personal.

Now enter the wedding crashers. These crashers will taint your special day. Not only can they ruin your fun, it will affect the rest of your guests. Uninvited. Not wanted. These are like the emails that show up in your inbox that you didn’t ask for. Emails that you don’t want. Emails that you don’t like.

Don’t be that marketer who crashes the party. Arriving in someone’s inbox without getting permission or asking to be there is not desired by the recipient. So they will complain, mark it as spam, delete your email without opening it, or unsubscribe. Just like the wedding crashers who ruin the party for everyone else, unwanted messages can ruin the marketers sends to other customers or prospects.

Sending without permission will decrease overall deliverability as lack of permission drives complaints up and reputation down.

Your overall deliverability rate will decrease as your reputation takes a hit. Unsubscribes will increase and engagement will drop. Sending to purchased lists is a surefire way to get blacklisted and blocked. Not just for the wedding crashers but for all subsequent messages to all your recipients. In addition, sending email without permission is in violation of some laws and will increase your legal liability in certain geographies.

Don’t want to be a wedding crasher? Follow these email permission best practices:

  1. Always ask for permission when you are collecting email addresses. Be clear and specific with your permission request and explain why you intend to use the data for.
  2. Use opt-in check boxes to gain express permission. Do not pre-check the box.
  3. Be upfront in setting expectations for what providing an email address will get. Communicate what you will be sending and how often you will be sending.
  4. Organically grow lists, never purchase or rent lists because permission is non-transferable.
  5. Never be deceptive in your permission request – don’t hide the permission in fine print or in a terms of service notice.
  6. Enable choice and provide subscription preferences to best meet your contact’s needs.

At the end of the day, you want all of your contacts to say “I do.” Using clear and affirmative permission in email marketing makes that relationship one that will live happily ever after.