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We recently had a customer contact us to ask us whether a particular vendor’s Permission Pass system was legitimate, because to them it seemed to cross the line. Smart customer! Because, in fact, this particular vendor (no, I’m not going to name them) is not only conducting Permission Pass in the completely wrong way – but in a way that would be sure to have gotten our customer in hot water with the ISPs and spam filters!

Now, generally speaking, a “Permission Pass” is analogous to reconfirming your mailing list. You send out one email to the entire list, asking everyone to confirm their desire to continue receiving email from you. If they don’t reconfirm, you remove them from your mailing list. That means that if they don’t respond at all, you delete them from your list.

What you are left with is often a much smaller list – but a far more responsive list.

Conducting a Permission Pass is a legitimate way to clean up your mailing lists and increase (by a lot) your ROI. It’s a practice that is approved by none other than Spamhaus. (For the white paper which I co-authored on the subject of reconfirming lists and ROI, download the PDF The Case for Confirmed Opt-In.)

In fact, one of our own customers, BenchMark, offers this service, and they do it right.

But this isn’t at all what the vendor that our customer asked us about was doing. In fact, here’s what they are doing:

You send an email to everyone on the list. Those who don’t want to be on the list any more will unsubscribe. Everyone who is left on the list you can email to your heart’s content.


Remember, it’s folks and services like this that make it so hard for the rest of you to get your email delivered.

So, the bottom line is that when done properly, a Permission Pass is a useful, legitimate tool. But be sure that it’s being done properly or you won’t get the result you’re expecting, or hoping for.

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