CASL – It’s in the details

Overlooking This CASL Detail May Hurt Your Small Business
By Guy Steeves, Regional Development Director, Constant Contact


Here’s a date to circle on your calendar: Friday, June 30, 2017. This is the deadline for businesses to receive confirmation from their email subscribers that yes; they do want to hear from them. Since the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) went into effect on July 1, 2014, there’s been some confusion about that confirmation.

First, let’s clarify what CASL is and what it means. The legislation requires anybody sending commercial e-mail to or from a Canadian computer, network or mail to obtain “opt in” consent before they hit the send button. ProtectYourOrganizationFromThreats-engOtherwise, the sender could be facing penalties ranging from $1-$10 million.

Last summer, when small business owners reached out to their contacts to obtain permission confirmation, some customers simply didn’t respond. Guided by the rational fear of possibly incurring hefty fines and perhaps unaware of the 2017 deadline, many small business owners removed these non-responsive customers from their list.  This was not necessary.

What they may have failed to realize is that if customers have previously opted in to receive email from you – and you built your contact list through permission-based email marketing – you can still continue to reach out to them – up until June 30. 2017. Herein lies the confusion. 

Permission Based Is The First Rule of Engagement

Permission-based email marketing is all about sending relevant, insightful and personalized messages that customers look forward to opening, reading and sharing. A customer that has opted in to receive your newsletters is giving you permission to reach out to them on a regular basis.

Of course, there are lots of ways to obtain email addresses. Customers visit your website, make a purchase, or enter their name or a business card in a drawing.  You can make a case for implied consent for any of the above mention scenarios that will allow you to send the contacts your newsletters, but there are conditions. In permission-based marketing, the best practice is on getting the customer’s express permission before you send them any marketing related email.   So we recommend getting express permission from the very start, because this type of permission never needs renewing. (They can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.)


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If your contact list was built on a permission-based strategy, then you already obtained confirmation (most likely a mix of implied and express consent) to reach out to customers. So don’t cast aside all the hard work that went into cultivating your contact list, by deleting ones that did not “click a link prior to July 2014”. Instead, keep doing what you’re doing – continue to use email marketing to educate, inform, engage, and drive business and referrals. Though be sure to get that reconfirmation for all implied consent contact records by the June 30th, 2017 deadline.

For those contacts that didn’t officially opt in to receive your emails, here’s how to inspire them to get on the list;

  • Create a “wow” customer experience. When customers are made to feel special and that the business went out of its way to ensure their satisfaction, they’re more likely to want to stay connected after they leave. They’re also more likely to tell their friends about the experience.
  • Ask. It really is that simple. When customers have a great experience, ask them if they would like to join your email list so they can continue to get free, helpful insight and special offers only presented to subscribers.
  • Post back issues of your newsletter on your website and keep them handy at the cash register. This way, customers can see the value of being a subscriber.
  • Make it easy to opt in and opt out. Customers should be able to sign up quickly by simply adding their email address as opposed to filling out lengthy forms. Also, opting out should be easy through the click of a single button.
  • Include a social sharing bar in your newsletter so subscribers can share your great content on their social networks.
  • Amplify your content on social media. You can post newsletter highlights and teasers on your social media pages and include a link that leads to a button to subscribe.

Along with helping clear the clutter from inboxes across the country, CASL put the spotlight on the need for permission-based marketing. While some small business owners may initially find their contact lists shrinking, all of them are likely to see significant gains. It’s the old “addition by subtraction” maxim.

With permission-based marketing you’re able to focus on engaging those customers that want to be engaged. Since 20 percent of your customers probably drive 80 percent of your business, permission-based marketing has been proven to drive repeat business and referrals.

Guy Steeves is the Regional Development Director for Constant Contact and is a speaker at the 2015 Edition of Social Media Camp, in Victoria, British Columbia, May 21-23.

Sean Smith

Sean is Managing Partner in, a Social Media consulting company based in Campbell River, BC. Sean has almost 20 years of experience in the IT industry, from a HelpDesk Manager to business owner. Sean has been active on Social Media platforms, since joining LinkedIn in 2005. Since then he has consulted on the development of Social Media strategies for a wide variety of businesses, from retail to tourism, instructed at workshops, been a guest and keynote speaker at various conferences, has been working as the tech/start-up author for and has recently become the Editor of the Social Media Camp Blog.

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