The Big Opportunity In The Canadian Anti-spam Legislation



On July 1st, sweeping legislation took effect to curb spam across Canada. Many brands were left scrambling, some begging their subscribers to opt-in. What smart brands did was re-evaluate their entire email system and seize the big opportunity:

Now that people have to specifically opt-in to your content, you had better give them a reason to.

An Incredibly Brief Introduction to the CASL

The new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) closes some loopholes that existed for years allowing brands to use email addresses that were acquired under “implicit consent” (meaning, you made a purchase, donated, or had a touch with a brand as a consumer and that brand retained your contact information). Under the new law, implicit consent has a much narrower definition.

Under the new CASL rules, implied consent includes:

  • A recipient has purchased a product, service or made another business deal, contract, or membership with your brand in the last 24 months
  • A registered charity or political organization, and the recipient has made a donation or gift, has volunteered, or attended a meeting organized by you
  • A professional message sent to a recipient whose email address was given to you, or is conspicuously published, and who hasn’t specifically told you (opted out) that they don’t want unsolicited messages

If the method you used to obtain your addresses is outside of these guidelines, you need to seek express consent.

The Opportunity for Brands

To achieve express consent from those on your lists outside of the bounds of implied consent, you will need to send them an opt-in email. This is the opportunity to wow a subscriber to retain them.

E-mail has gotten more sophisticated and smart brands use this opportunity to create purpose-built, engaging content that will inform or interest the recipient with a view of turning that interest into clicks through to the website or to donate, or another appropriate call to action.

Content that gets clicks is short, informative, and interesting. Do not choose this one-time opportunity to give the hard sell to a potential subscriber. This is a time to dazzle your potential customers. Make them think about your product in a new way. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them care enough to opt in.

Tell an Irresistible Story

Social media excels at telling stories that are quirky and sharable. Think about your newsletter as an opportunity to tell a killer 200-word story. (Don’t go long. If you need more words, truncate the story at an opportune spot, where the reader will be forced to click through.)

If stories won’t work, and your brand tends toward the visual, consider including a small gallery of images with captions. Consider adding animated .gifs. Whatever you do visually, don’t make it salesy or strictly about the product. Make it useful, or make it entertaining. Make it something people in your office would like to read.

If Your List Is Pristine, There’s an Opportunity

If you’ve already cleaned up your data, don’t stop there. Pull the last 6 newsletters you’ve sent and look at the content vs. the click-through rate. In almost every case, there is room for improvement. You should look at your social media endeavors to find the content that has performed the best and tailor new content around those themes.

Subject Line Composition is Key

You should aim to intrigue your potential subscriber. Your headline should provoke an opening either by posing a question, making a joke, or being personalized with the recipient’s name. For instance, instead of writing “Stay Up-To-Date With Us!” try “We’ve Got A Bad Dinosaur Joke Inside Waiting For You!” This is a bizarre thing to write, and could very well provoke people into opening your mail.

Write several iterations of your headline and ask people to rank them. Once you have 2 clear winners, you’re ready to A/B test.

You Should Still A/B Test Your Opt-In E-mail

It’s important to get good performance metrics on retention for this exercise. You should consider A/B testing subject lines and perhaps even content and layout. Do this on a small segment of your total list and send out the top-performing option to the remainder of your list.

Set Up a Plan for the Next 3 Months

Don’t make this content change a one-off. If you’ve fought hard to retain your subscribers, then pay off your promise to entertain and inform them. The more they interact with your content, the higher percentage chance they will purchase or donate in the future.

The CASL has put forth a challenge to brands: make your content great, or your subscribers will show you the door. Make sure your brand is ready for the challenge.


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