As some of you reading this blog know, one of the things we do particularly well at Prospek is email marketing.

The Prospek email marketing team spends a lot of time working with our clients on design, content and emailing best practices. The most challenging part of any new email campaign is explaining to a new client the rules of the emailing world, such as “why can’t I use the list I bought” and the value of permission-based email marketing.

When people ask to receive your content or at least give you their email address so you can contact them with information about your business, they will be more apt to read and act on the information you’re sending them. Sending information to people who haven’t asked for it or who, at the very least are expecting to hear from you, is like throwing money out the window. Not to mention possibly of damaging your brand image in the eyes of that person and impeding your ability to send subsequent campaigns if these people report your email as spam.

As canadian email marketers, we would use the U.S. can-spam law as a guideline to base ourselves on, as we did not have a law of our own. Well, last December the canadian government passed a law ( Bill C-28) commonly known as FISA ( Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act) to set minimum, I repeat MINIMUM, standards for our industry (as laws often do).

The main point of this new law, which will go into effect within the next 6-8 months, revolves around permission and what will be considered obtaining someone’s permission to contact them via email, SMS and/or MMS, among others. FISA sets out specific criteria for what will be considered express consent and implied consent, as well as what will need to be included in your email messages, how unsubscribe mechanisms should be handled, and what information we will need to gather – and maintain – to prove that permission was granted. Express consent is defined in this law as the recipient of a message having given the sender (aka you) permission to contact them via email. Implied consent is set out as being an existing relationship between the recipient and the sender, an existing relationship is defined as the recipient having been a customer of the business (aka you) by having purchased goods or services or entered into a contract with a company.

FISA also sets out rules for charities and non-profit organizations, a relationship in this case is defined as being someone who volunteers or has become a part of an organization. Implied consent has a life span of 2 years, which means that after two years, you will need to get express consent. Now that you’ve obtained consent this doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow the old standby best practice rules: clearly identifying yourself as the sender and having an unsubscribe mechanism is still required and must remain active for at least 60 days after the drop date.

And now for the question you’re all dying to ask: what are the penalties? They range from up to one million dollars for individuals and ten million dollars for organizations who break the rules. Some people may think this new law makes sending emails more complicated then it’s worth and ties our hands when it comes to reaching potential clients via bought or rented lists. I think it does exactly the opposite, it will force us email marketers to raise our game and help our clients acquire subscribers and grow their lists with people who want to hear from them. These people are more likely to convert anyhow since they asked to receive your content demonstrating a basic interest. FISA will also push us to publish more compelling content to keep our readers engaged and wanting more, In other words, doing what we should have been doing all along and not just treating your email campaign like the red headed stepchildren who never gets the attention they deserve.