A Gentleman’s Guide to Effective (and Legal) Email Marketing in Canada

Email Marketing Best Practices, and advice on staying CASL compliant

I like to think of myself as a nice guy. Growing up, I found it was more likely the mother of female classmates who were encouraging them to go out with me, even if there was no level of mutual interest happening. I also consider myself master of getting friend-zoned. With that said, I (surprise) do not have an extensive dating history. While many would argue courtship is dead, I found myself curious… what general rules could one still use from the days when courting a female was standard. Surprisingly, I found the answers also applied well to email marketing best practices.

Request The Pleasure of Her Company – A gentleman knows the woman he desires must be interested in pursuing a romance before he can move forward.

When building an email list, remember that quality is better than the quantity subscribed to your list. You want people on your list who genuinely want to stay in touch with you, usually because you provide so much value they feel like they will miss something by not staying connected. If you focus on the quantity of people on your list, it may mislead you into aggressively pursuing business connections who are not interested in receiving emails and updates from you. Also, be sure to explain your intensions when attempting to get your audience to sign up for your email list. Inform them what they should/should not expect.

Build a genuine relationship – A gentleman understands that when building a relationship, he must “court” or “woo” the female into understanding what a good match he is for her.

Effective email marketing starts with building trust. Primarily, trust is built by providing value to your audience through free content which also showcases your expertise. However, it is also built with transparency and honesty. Make it clear in your communications who you are, and how you can be reached if they want to unsubscribe. Also, do not mislead your audience into thinking you are someone completely different than who you actually are.

Be a “giving” business not a “taking” business – A gentleman understands that building a relationship with a desired female should not be approached selfishly & they certainly do not try to close the deal on the first date.

Do not make email marketing strictly about closing the deal. Your audience wants to feel like they are “more than a number”. You must give them an exceptional amount of value before it is appropriate to ask them to buy something.

Remind Them How Important They Are – A gentleman understands a female enjoys feeling like they are an important part of their significant other’s life.

When email marketing, try to find opportunities to show your audience you are listening to them. Provide them with opportunities to give you feedback, and then show them you’re listening to their feedback when you send future communications.

No Means No – A gentleman respects the fact that a desired female may in time lose the desire to pursue a relationship with him.

Attempt to provide value to your audience and show them you are someone they might enjoy staying connected with. However, if in spite of your best efforts they decide they do not want to stay connected with you… respect that. Promptly end the email marketing relationship by making it very easy for them to unsubscribe from your list.

How CASL is Like a Loving Father Looking out for His Little Girl’s best Interests

Keeping it Legal

In spirit of the idea of “courting” the woman a gentleman desires, remember… you must ultimately receive the blessing of the father to guarantee a positive union moving forward. In this case, we must compare getting blessing from the father to keeping your email marketing efforts CASL compliant. To help you do so, I reached out to a London Ontario based lawyer for some more details about the law.

Unlike its U.S. counterpart which is primarily based on an opt-out model for controlling spam, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) has adopted an opt-in model and therefore requires a sender of any e-mail (and many other types of messages including SMS) that falls within a broad class of messages which are defined in the Act as ‘Commercial Electronic Messages’ (CEM’s for short) to have a recipient’s consent before any e-mail is ever sent.

For simplicity, basically any e-mail sent by an e-mail marketer will require compliance with CASL whether an e-mail is sent from within Canada or to a recipient located in Canada.  In addition to having consent of a recipient, every CEM sent must contain certain mandated content, specifically, it must: (i) identify the sender and any third party for whom the message is sent, (ii) contain a mailing address and one of a telephone number, e-mail address or web-address which must be functional for at least 60 days after sending the message, and (iii) contain a readily performable unsubscribe mechanism.  All unsubscribe requests must be completed within 10 days.

Since the sender of any e-mail must have consent, it is important to consider the type of consent on which you will rely.  The legislation provides for two types of consent – express and implied.  Express consent requires a sender to obtain the explicit permission of an individual to receive CEM’s (in a specifically prescribed form).  Since the onus is always on the sender to prove they had an individual’s consent, it is crucial that a proper system is set up and maintained to collect and record these consents since these records will form part of your defense to a future claim that e-mails were sent without consent.  The Act also allows a sender to rely on implied consent in very specific circumstances (such as if a recipient is a recent customer or if you have an ongoing business relationship).  Again, the onus is on the sender to prove the basis for implied consent so, if you intend to rely on implied consent (which is usually not recommended) very careful attention must be paid to the specific type of consent on which you intend to rely and the details such as time-specific limitations after which an implied consent is no longer valid.  As a rule, when in doubt only rely on express consent that you are confident you can prove.

Seeking express consent from your customers or clients is no longer an easy task since as of July 1, 2014, even an e-mail seeking their express consent (to allow you to comply with CASL) requires you to have the recipient’s consent prior to sending – therefore, a careful examination of the implied consent rules will be required.  Also, keep in mind that CASL requires messages which are sent to be truthful in their content and not deceptive.

In sum, complying with CASL requires careful planning and preparation, proper systems and training within your organization and good record-keeping.  This information has only scratched the surface of CASL and its impact on marketers.  There are many details and other provisions in the legislation to be considered which haven’t been addressed here, therefore the only solution is to become fully educated on the law, seek proper technical and legal assistance, and be willing to adapt your practices to comply.  More information on the law and resources for business can be found at the federal government’s dedicated webpage on CASL at www.fightspam.gc.ca.  Specific legal advice should always be obtained and interested parties may contact David Lyons who is a partner in the Business Law Group of Lerners LLP to discuss their CASL compliance issues.

Final Thoughts

Courting and chivalry analogies aside, I think the bottom line is that if you approach your email marketing efforts from the point of view that you are simply trying to give value and showcase your expertise to your audience, then that’s a great start. Also, treat them as you would want to be treated. One important reason CASL exists, is with the hope that it will create an environment where email marketing will actually be more effective. Currently, emails with marketing messages are largely unwanted and ignored. However, if we started to get less unwanted emails from businesses, and more that provided actual value… it may create an environment where we actually look forward to the emails that arrive in our inbox, even the ones from a business.

General Disclaimer

While my current understanding of this law suggests it is unlikely a small business that makes any reasonable effort to be compliant with the law should face any issues, please do consult with a business law expert if you have any doubts that your email marketing efforts are CASL compliant. I’ve tried to share information & best practices with you based on what I’ve heard about CASL, but keep in mind that I am an entrepreneur and web developer, and not a lawyer.

About The Author


At LOWD Media, we specialize in supporting entrepreneurs. We understand inspired entrepreneurs and business minded individuals. We then use this understanding to learn about your business and help you create a look and feel for your business – your brand identity. Our business startup packages provide everything you need to begin marketing your business effectively and at an affordable price. Once you begin marketing and growing your business, we strive to support you and grow with you. Long term success for your business means long term success for our business. Let your brand be heard loud and clear with LOWD.

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