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Sound familiar? Yep, they’re the bleating calls of a million businesses rushing to ask you to consent (again) to their email marketing.

Whether you all it re-consent, re-subscribe or re-permission, it’s all the same: an attempt to get your consent to their marketing in a form they didn’t already have.

Why get re-consent?

This is related to the GDPR, which is making consent more strictly defined. Businesses who bundled marketing consent into other services or that didn’t give enough granular information on their sign up form might decide that the consent they have now won’t be good enough on May 26th.

It also reminds us that we need a good “audit trail” for our consent. Businesses that have moved contacts between systems might have lost their original consent records – even though they know they got them – and might choose to re-permission, just to be safe.

Finally, it’s a good idea to ask for re-consent from inactive or old contacts, regardless. You might run re-consent campaigns regularly, or even have them automatically go out when a contact is a certain “age”.

You run a business… does this mean YOU need to get re-consent!?


The definitions and requirements for consent is a legal topic. I’m not a lawyer and none of the information in this article should be interpreted as legal advice. Please do your own due diligence to determine if or how much of this information is relevant to your circumstances, and whether you should seek professional legal advice.

Decide if you need a re-consent campaign

Stop! Before firing up Aweber and pumping out some half-written emails, check if you really need to get re-consent.

This is a high-risk activity!

Think of your average open rate. 30%? 40%?

Now think of your average click-through rate of total recipients. 2%? 5%? Even 20%?

Somewhere in-between is what you can expect for your re-consent rate. 

You WILL NOT re-consent your whole list. You’ll be lucky to make back 50% of it. Running a re-consent or re-permission campaign across all your contacts risks making your email list a shadow of its former self.

You probably don’t need a re-consent campaign right now

The best re-consent campaign is to not run one!

If you already have valid consent under the GDPR, don’t ask for it again.

What is valid consent?

  • specific
  • granular
  • clear, affirmative action

If your existing contacts actively signed up to your marketing (not added automatically from some other action), and you told them everything you’re going to send them (and you don’t want to start sending them anything different), then you already have good consent.

You do not need to run a re-consent campaign.

Inform subscribers of their options

Instead, you might consider adding profile options to opt in & out of your different email topics, and send a campaign to encourage them to update their profile. You can do this at anytime and will give your contacts more granular control.

When you should consider a re-consent campaign

Only consider asking for re-consent if you have some kind of existing consent for marketing that is reasonably valid right now but might not be sufficient after May 25th.


  • You clearly informed people at checkout that they will also be added to your email marketing list, but didn’t give them the option to opt-out at that time. (Bundled consent)
  • Your contacts signed up through a lead form that didn’t describe everything you send them, but it was clearly a marketing list sign up form (not for a product, service, generic contact form etc.) (Less-than-ideal information, but not totally uninformed.)
  • You got “paper signups” at a market stall long before you started sending emails, and don’t have the original pages anymore. (No audit trail.)

Definitely do not run a re-consent campaign if…

You do not already have some kind of consent!

People who purchased without any notice of being added to a marketing list, submitted a simple contact form, or are so old you don’t remember how you got them!

You cannot send an email asking for the opt-in if you have no consent to send that email.

Plan & send a re-consent campaign (fast)

1. Only ask for re-consent from those you need it from.

If you have contacts from different sources, and some gave GDPR-level consent and others didn’t, then segment your list so you only send your campaign to those who did not give GDPR-level consent or you don’t have the correct records for anymore.

Use the segmenting tools in your email marketing platform to do this. Most likely, you’ll need to segment based on the form or page they signed up from, or by sign up date, if you’ve made changes to your consent process (adding information or making it double opt-in).

2. Set a target list size

Asking for re-consent will significantly reduce your email marketing list. That’s a fact. 

If you’ve been gathering contacts through massive marketing pushes, then your overall quality might be low and you could benefit from this “clean out”! A smaller, more engaged list is more profitable.

Identify your “low engagers”

Create a segment based on “subscriber activity” to identify people who aren’t engaging with your emails anymore. Depending on your tool, you could use the contact rating or recent campaign activity.

You might find that a third to half your list has “low engagement”. With regular list cleaning, these contacts could be removed anyway, so this sets a useful benchmark for your re-consent campaign.

Use Mailchimp’s “Contact Rating”

If you use Mailchimp, take advantage of the Contact Rating and create two segments:

  • Contact rating greater than 3 stars + Email marketing status is Subscribed = Your “good result” target
  • Contact rating greater than 2 stars + Email marketing status is Subscribed = Your “great result” target

Get re-consent numbers close to either of these and you’re doing an amazing job.

Take unsubscribers into account

People will unsubscribe from your re-consent emails. In fact, you should ask them to.

Over the course of your entire campaign (multiple emails), your overall unsubscribe rate could be between 2 – 5% of your current list size. This will vary considerably depending on:

  • The current quality of your list
  • The type of re-consent emails you send

>> Your target list size <<

Re-consent target = Total current list size Low engagers – Expected unsubscribes


Re-consent target = Only high engaging contacts – Expected unsubscribes

This doesn’t mean that you should expect only or all of these specific, engaging contacts to re-consent! But that if you were to manually clean your list by removing low engaging contacts, this is the list size you’d end up with. Therefore, it’s a reasonable target for any kind of list cleaning campaign, such as re-consent.

My experiment results

My Good target was 37% and Great target was 51%.  I’m currently on track to re-consent 34% of my contacts. This is not an easy campaign to get right.

3. Decide how many emails to send

You will need to send more than one email.

Even if your target list size is less than your average email open rate, your opt-in rate per email will not be 100%. Depending on your list quality and type of campaign, your opt-in rate could be as low as 10% or even 5% for each email!

Your open rate and opt-in rate for your follow up emails will also continue to reduce, so the results of your first one are probably the best you’ll get per email.

Send 3 – 5 emails in your campaign

Most of you will have a target list size of between 35 – 60% of your current list. An average opt-in rate of <10% per email would take at least 4 campaigns to hit 35% and 7 campaigns to hit 60% in total.

Do you have TIME to send this many emails before May 25th?

4. Plan your campaign

Decide what segments and campaign structure you’ll use.


  • Different emails to engaged and unengaged contacts.
  • Different messages based on other information you know about them (eg. topics or products they’re interested in).

Create a campaign structure using a combination of the following:

  • Offers or incentives <– Be very careful to not encourage opt-ins JUST to get a reward. The opt-in needs to be freely given based on the new information you’re providing.

Good incentive: Confirm your subscription and I’ll send you my Summer 2018 styling tips straight away.
(This is good because it’s content you might have provided to subscribers anyway, not totally different to why you’re asking them to re-opt-in.)

Bad incentive: Confirm your subscription to go in the draw for a $1000 shopping spree!

  • Remind inactive contacts why they signed up. Give them more detailed information than you give your current, engaged subscribers. (Way more than they need just to give consent.)
  • At least two follow up emails to people who haven’t opted in yet, becoming progressively more “to the point” about the consequences of not taking action.

Example campaign structure

  1. [A] – Long time no open! Here’s what you’re missing out on. –> To unengaged
    [B] – I heard you’re a fan. Stick around to make sure you get this great, upcoming content/sale/collection release. –> To engaged
  2. [A] – Is this goodbye? Reminder of what you’re missing out on. –> To unengaged
    [B] – Did you forget to confirm you want this [new thing]? –> To engaged
  3. [B] – We’re about to break up 🙁 Would you like to rekindle our relationship? –> To engaged

5. Prepare how you’ll collect “re-consent”

The way you get re-consent should be a) easy and b) “traceable”. This means that simply updating a tag or custom field is probably not sufficient, as you could simply make this update to the contacts yourself. It will also take your subscribers more than two clicks to complete.

Two reliable options:

1. Use a “one-click” feature available in your email marketing platform.

It doesn’t really matter what this does so long as it creates a record somewhere of the action the subscriber took, and it’s not something YOU can do for them.

a) AWeber’s Click Automations
b) Mailchimp’s Survey tags

2. Ask them to sign up to a totally new list (in two clicks)

If you don’t keep a lot of different data for your email contacts, then this option could work for you.

Try to link to a sign up form that can be pre-filled with their existing information, so they can re-subscribe just by hitting the submit button.

Make sure you can identify & exclude “re-consenters” from your follow up campaigns

Test out your system’s segmentation options to decide how you’ll exclude people who re-subscribe from the rest of your campaign. In a worst-case scenario, you might need to create a “static segment” where you import or copy & paste the list.

TIP: You can easily create Mailchimp segments based on Survey responses.

6. Write your emails

What to include in your emails:

  1. Ask for the unsubscribe up front. It seems counter-intuitive, but knowing you’re losing contacts because they just aren’t interested in your stuff anymore is a much easier pill to swallow than having to delete whole swathes of them just because they didn’t open an email.
  2. Make it very clear what will happen if they do not take action: you will delete them from your list and they’ll stop getting your emails! Don’t beat around the bush too much.
  3. All the information they need to consent: what you’re collecting, how you’re using it, what you’ll send them, any control options they have (including to opt out), and where you’ve stored their data (eg. in Mailchimp, Aweber or ConvertKit) + a link to your full privacy policy. Be brief but informative: assume the reader will not read your privacy policy (but consider including wording that opting back in means they’re saying that they have read it).
  4. Specific benefits of re-consenting: are you going to send them some bonus content or a small % discount? Remember not to make it too good or your consent won’t be valid. Avoid competitions.

More tips:

  • Get to the point. Don’t waffle on for paragraphs about changing laws, what you’ve sent over the past three years and how much you love them.
  • Make the opt-in action visually obvious. Use a coloured button or put it in a coloured box. Make it large, centred and different from the rest of the email.
  • Strike a balance between putting the opt-in action as soon as possible and ensuring they read the consent information. Can you write a shorter summary and say that “clicking to re-subscribe means you’ve read the information below”?
  • Show the gravity of the situation: Use words like “ending”, “goodbye” and “I will delete you from my list” – even (especially) in your subject lines. Don’t hide the fact that this email needs action or something BIG will happen.

7. Track your progress

After you send your first campaigns, calculate your opt-in rate after 24 hours and decide if you’re performing better or worse than expected. Do you need to make your next campaign more urgent? Should you consider adding an extra follow up?

8. Follow-through

If you’re about to run a re-consent or re-permission campaign, remember: once you commit, that’s it. Anyone who gets that email and does not opt-in must be OUT on May 25th, whether they’re deleted entirely or just un-subscribed.

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