Building a Better List: Implied vs Explicit Permission


pablo (59).png


Most people know by now that in the world of email marketing, permission-based addresses are considered the gold standard; however, it’s not always clear just what exactly counts as “permission”. It gets even more confusing when you realize that there are different types of permission. In this post, I’m going to look at the two different types of permission: Implied and Explicit


Note: Depending on where you live, what you read, or who you speak to, the terms may be slightly different (such as “implicit” instead of “implied” or “express” instead of “explicit”, however, the definitions remain the same).


Implied Permission:


Implied permission is when someone provides you his or her email address through regular business communication, but without a direct request for ongoing communication. Some examples might include:


  • Filling out a Contact Us, Request a Quote, or other similar form
  • Inquiring about a product or service via email
  • Business card exchange or badge scan at a networking event
  • Purchasing a product or service (without there being any opt in option)
  • Registering for an event (without there being any opt in option)
  • Signing up for a contest or giveaway
  • Donating to a charity or political campaign
  • Requiring an email address to access website content, downloads, etc.


Pros Of Implied Permission:

  • Requires minimal effort
  • Generates the most amount of contacts while still falling under the “permission based” umbrella
  • Eliminates the potential for error on the subscriber’s end


Cons of Implied Permission:

  • Not considered an email marketing “best practice”
  • Many contacts may feel violated and complain, which can cause spam complaints, negatively affecting your online reputation
  • Implied permission lists tend to have lower engagement (Opens, Clicks, etc)
  • Some people who are savvy to the world of email marketing may have fake or junk email addresses that they use to avoid getting mail they didn’t request.
  • Some countries (such as Canada) have very strict regulations around implied permission contacts and how long you may use them. (For specific information regarding the Canadian Anti-Spam Laws [CASL] click here)


Explicit Permission:


With Explicit Permission, the contact takes a direct action to request to be on an organization’s mailing list. With this method, there is no question as to whether or not they would like to receive your newsletters. Some examples include:


  • A newsletter subscription box on the website
  • An uncheck box on an online form or event registration
  • Paper and pen sign up form at physical location


Pros Of Explicit Permission:

  • Considered to be a best practice
  • Permissible with every current email marketing provider and law
  • Create a more engaged list of contact who are more likely to generate Opens, Clicks, and Forwards
  • Can be used in conjunction with a double opt in to create an even cleaner list.


Cons Of Explicit Permission:

  • Requires a bit more work to get off the ground than implied permission and has a slower growth rate
  • There is the risk of a potentially interested party not taking the action to fill in a sign up box or check an unchecked sign up box.


It has been my experience that many email marketers have a mix of both implied and explicit contacts. Constant Contact strongly encourages you to utilize explicit permission whenever possible. If you do have contacts that have given implied permission, try to mail to them separately from your explicit contacts. That way any Compliance issues that may occur will not affect your contacts that directly opted in. You may also want to consider trying to get explicit permission from your implied contacts.


Marketing Digest

Check out marketing advice, tips, and tricks. All from our Constant Contact experts

Visit the blog

  • Avatar

    Featured Article

    Announcing Campaign Builder!

    Save time and build effective marketing campaigns with Campaign Builder.

    See Article
  • Avatar

    Featured Thread

    Casual Conversations: What is your favorite hobby?

    Do you like to paint? Play sports? Garden? Whatever the hobby may be, join the conversation and tell us about it!

    View thread
  • Avatar

    Featured Article

    Community Roundup: May 2024

    Check out all the great articles, discussions, and events for the month of May!

    See Article