If you’re in the content marketing business, there’s a good chance you have at least a passing knowledge of CASL. Canada’s anti-spam legislation governs email marketing activities aimed at Canadian consumers, and is widely considered to be one of the more restrictive of its kind.

The controversial law, which came into effect on July 1, 2014, gave businesses a generous three-year period to gain express consent from their existing email lists, provided these lists were comprised of people who had existing business relationships with the company. Hearing this, many marketing departments breathed a collective sigh of relief, telling themselves they had plenty of time to get it right.

Well, the deadline just passed. How did you do? Are you compliant with CASL?

More importantly, did you take advantage of the legislation in order to implement a strategic marketing plan that allows you to not only connect with your audience but also engage them?

Because, believe it or not, becoming compliant was the least of the benefits to be found by vetting your list for express consent.

First, let’s review what express consent is.

Express Consent – What Is It, Again?

According to the government of Canada, express consent is given when a contact has “clearly agreed (orally or in writing) to receive a commercial electronic message.”

What does this mean in terms of your own digital marketing strategies?

Here’s one example: If you have an opt-in on your website where your prospect enters their name and email, and clicks a button labelled “Subscribe to Our Newsletter,” you can be expressly (and therefore legally!) certain that they want to receive newsletter content from you in their email inbox.

What if you have a form unrelated to email marketing – say, a form that enables a prospect to register on your website to download your eBook? In this case, adding a check box before the “Submit” button labelled something like, “Receive updates and great deals from us” is permissible, but having this box checked by default is not. Your prospect must take to indicate that they wish to see more from you in their mailbox.

Connecting Compliance and Engagement

While many companies did put in the long hours necessary to ensure compliance, they did not take the next step to ensure they were reaching an engaged audience. In other words, they sent out the obligatory notices requesting express consent, but they overlooked a unique opportunity to vet their mailing lists and make a stronger connection with their target market.

Regular readers of our blogs will have read a recent post, “How to Revive A Neglected Email List with Personalization”, where we say it’s far better to have one hundred raving fans than thousands who really don’t care and rarely (if ever) read anything you have sent to them.

Easy to say, perhaps, but you might hesitate if it comes to culling over 90% of your list in order to become compliant.

However, we encourage you to embrace a more proactive approach to vetting your contacts. Here’s why.

An invested, interested list can be engaged and interacted with in many more involved ways than simply through an outgoing email once a week.

For example, surveys that assist in future marketing plans or rate a previous one are more likely to be responded to, giving you valuable feedback, and more targeted content will hit the bulls-eye because you know who your audience is. You also retain the confidence that your open and click rates will remain much higher than they would for a passive, unengaged list.

The Logistics…

So how do you vet your list for express consent?

I can tell you what we did at Mercer MacKay Digital Storytelling: one email, sent three times at weekly intervals, and one large, blue button labelled “Yes, Keep Sending Me Valuable Content!” that the recipient clicked if he or she wanted to continue to receive email communications from us.

Each week, we gathered the contacts who didn’t open the previous email and sent another, to minimize the chance that our email slipped by unnoticed during the lulls that often come with summer.

The consent was clear, and since the only action that the recipient needed to take was clicking the button, we could be sure that we weren’t missing out on otherwise happy but busy readers. While only around 15% of our original list remains, we are confident in the emotional investment that this group feels towards us and our message.

The Pay-Off

In recent years, the customer journey has shifted towards an inbound model. With so much information at everyone’s fingertips, customers are frequently the ones initiating a relationship with your business, and exploring your online presence before they choose to do so.

This means that the contacts you’re getting are those who are reading your message, and who feel like it aligns closely with their own beliefs and aspirations. They want to hear more of it. They feel like it adds something to their lives!

What about the others, those who were just padding your list? Let them go — they will give express consent to companies that they are enthusiastic about.

Getting CASL-compliant is, more than anything, a brilliant opportunity to curate a hand-picked list that’s perfect for you, and to free you up to love your list the way you’ve always wanted to. Your content will flourish — and, of course, your list will thank you for it.