Permission guidelines for email marketing

Improve open rates by only emailing people who want your messages.

Thibault Candebat avatar
Written by Thibault Candebat
Updated over a week ago

When you receive a letter in the mail, you’re much more likely to open it if it’s from someone you know, rather than a company you’ve never heard of. The same is true for email.
Sending a message to someone who didn’t agree to receive emails from you, can hurt your brand’s reputation and prevent future messages from reaching your customers’ inboxes.

What is “permission”?

In email marketing, having permission means that the recipient has given you explicit and informed consent to send messages to them. Permission can be collected in a variety of ways, such as:

  • A new user checks a box in your sign-up flow that indicates they want to receive emails from you.

  • A lead enters their email address in a form to receive updates and promotions from you.

  • An attendee at a conference writes their email address on a list so they can receive additional information from you.

In all of these scenarios, the person understands exactly what they’re signing up for, and knows who you are. They’re expecting emails from you in the future, so they’ll be more likely to open them.

To send email via Intercom, you must confirm that your users and leads want to receive email from you. Sending unsolicited email is also an offense in many countries — you should consult a legal expert to ensure that you are complying with all applicable laws and regulations.

The consequences of unsolicited email

Your email sending reputation is largely based on how recipients interact with your messages. If someone receives an email from you they weren’t expecting, their actions could negatively impact your success when sending emails in the future.

Open rate

If you don't have permission to send email to users and leads, your open rate is the first thing that will be impacted. This is also true if the recipient doesn't recognize who the email is from, or doesn't remember signing up to receive it. A low open rate will make it harder for messages to land in your customers’ inboxes in future. We’ve written some tips on how to improve your open rate here.

Unsubscribe rate

One of the most common causes for a high unsubscribe rate is sending email to people who never consented to receive it. If your unsubscribe rate is higher than 1%, you should ensure you’re asking for permission in a clear, conspicuous way.

Spam complaint rate

A spam complaint occurs when a person marks an email as “spam” or “junk” in their email client (like Gmail). Someone may mark a message as spam if they never agreed to receive your emails, if the content is not relevant to them, or if they no longer want to receive your messages.

Spam complaints can severely damage your sending reputation. A good complaint rate should be below 0.02% - anything higher than that will cause your messages to go to spam folders, or to be blocked entirely.

Blocked emails

If you send enough email to people who did not explicitly give you permission, databases like Spamhaus are likely to list your domain as malicious. This will cause your messages to be blocked before they ever reach the recipient, and will damage your own sending reputation as well as Intercom’s.

Permission best practices

To protect your sending reputation, and to ensure that your messages are successfully delivered, only send emails to people who have agreed to receive them. Follow these best practices, and you’ll reduce the risk of poor sending statistics and blocklisting events.

Explicitly ask for permission

When someone signs up for your product, make sure you’re specifically asking if you can send them marketing emails. Include a check box asking for permission to email them, or a button that says “Yes, subscribe me to your emails!”  to let that person know that they should expect a message from you soon.

One way to ensure you have permission to email someone is to implement Confirmed Opt-In. Confirmed opt-in (also known as double opt-in) is where you send an email to new users with a unique confirmation link that they must click in order to receive email from you. This has the added benefit of helping to prevent spam traps as well.

Make it clear who your emails come from

Once someone has signed up to receive your emails, they’ll be expecting to hear from you. Make sure your message comes from your own domain, and explicitly says who you are, so the recipient understands why they’re receiving that message.

To ensure that you’re only emailing people who want to receive your messages, you need to give recipients an easy way to opt out. Having a clearly visible unsubscribe link allows users and leads to tell you they no longer want your emails, without damaging your sending reputation. A good unsubscribe link also helps prevent spam complaints.

Note: The "Unsubscribe Link" will be shown in whatever language you have set as the default language on your Intercom Messenger. If you have set additional secondary languages, then the language of the "Unsubscribe Link" will match based on your customers browser language.

Remove disengaged users from your list

Permission isn’t permanent. Even if someone gave you permission to send them emails, once they become inactive in your product, and are no longer engaging with your messages you should remove them from your list. If someone hasn’t logged in or opened an email from you in more than 6 months, it’s probably time to say goodbye. 

What’s next?

If you still have questions about how permission (or lack thereof) can impact your email deliverability and sending reputation, reach out to us via the Messenger or at


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