Anti-Spam Watch: Trade Show Opt-In

Recently, a colleague asked me if leads gathered from a trade show were fair game for email marketing. Digital Pi has always been a proponent of email opt-in, and given the evolving anti-spam regulations around the globe, we believe companies should adopt strict opt-in policies now in order to avoid negative impact later.

In the trade show scenario, the person has to opt-in to give you permission to email them before you can do so. Strong anti-spam regulations, like Canada’s CASL, define permission as either implied or express.

In the case of “implied opt-in,” which requires a business relationship, the company can email the person as a follow-up to a request or purchase. For example, if I buy something from you, I might expect you to email purchase information to me. It’s important to note that implied opt-ins expire eventually, so express opt-in is best. Let’s consider express opt-in.

Express permission means that you were asked directly, “will you opt-in so that we can send you information about products, services, or other offers that we think you may be interested in,” and then you say “yes.”

Trade shows usually offer two ways for a vendor to obtain a lead list: 1) scanned booth visitors; and 2) attendee lists provided by the event organizer. It’s highly unlikely that a person would agree to a blanket opt-in for every vendor at a given show, so let’s focus on leads gathered by badge scans at a single booth.

So, can my colleague email to a list collected at a trade show? My answer was “no,” unless they expressly agreed to being emailed, and my colleague was able to record the fact that they agreed. Here’s what the Canadian Chamber of Commerce says about this scenario:

Q: At a trade show, would scanning a person’s badge be considered consent if they agree. Would the list derived from show management be used as proof of consent?

A: No, if the condition of entering the trade show was “bundled” with the request for consent. Yes, if entering the trade show was separate + if you clearly ask the person if they grant their consent to receive exactly what type of CEMs & indicated that scanning their badge was the way you were making a record of that consent.

It may seem that opt-in is a huge burden for marketers, but there is a case to be made for anti-spam laws being an opportunity in disguise. I discussed this in an earlier post, Anti-Spam Legislation Could Have a Silver Lining. Consider how much easier your legally opted-in email will be received when 90% of the current spam is eliminated from your prospect’s inbox!

For more information on CASL, read the Executive Brief on Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

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