Canada’s Anti-Spam Law & Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses (Interview)

Canada’s Anti-Spam Law & Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses (Interview)

The interview below aired on the radio show “Business in Vancouver” on Roadhouse Radio 98.3, on September 5th, 2017. Hayley Woodin interviewed me (Antoine, marketing director) and we covered topics like;

  • the effects of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law on small businesses,
  • how they can successfully use email marketing and
  • the evolution of email marketing in the recent years.

Listen to the interview below…

Here’s the transcript of the interview:

Hayley: Welcome back to “Business in Vancouver” on Roundhouse Radio 983. We are the daily business news program from the “Business in Vancouver” newspaper and from I’m your host, Hayley Woodin.Canada’s anti-spam legislation has forced Canadian businesses to pay close attention to their email marketing campaigns and outreach. The transition period, of course, ended July 1st of this year, which essentially means businesses can only contact individuals who have opted in or expressed consent to receive communications. With me, to discuss the impact of CASL as well as how email marketing generally has evolved over the years, is Antoine Bonicalzi. He’s the Director of Marketing at Cyberimpact based in Montreal. Thanks for joining me.

Antoine: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Hayley: So, of course, we saw CASL come into effect July 1st, 2014. There was that grace period of three years which we just saw last month. Tell me, how did the end of this transition period really impact businesses that you work with?

Antoine: Yeah, well, basically it means that now you gotta have a consent in order to be able to send electronic messages and, of course, that means emails. So, the law prohibits sending out commercial electronic messages, so emails without the recipient’s express or implied consent. So, one of the biggest misconception, I would say, is that you can still send emails to people towards whom you have only implied consent. So, that means that even if people have not necessarily expressively opted in, that you can still send them emails if you can prove that you have an ongoing relationship with them.

So, let’s say, ongoing customers, or past clients, or even people who ask you for a quote or ask information about your services or your products. You can still send them emails, commercial communications. You just have to make sure that you respect the different little moving pieces and you respect the different delays that those consent are good for. So, there’s a “let you know” and that’s one of the biggest misconceptions. You can still add people to your subscription list, your email list. You just have to make sure that you respect all those little details.

And we have also a resource for that, so if your listeners wanna go to, they will have different videos and infographics and all kinds of little reminders to explain all of that.

Hayley: And you mentioned there was this misconception. I think there was at times a lot of confusion on the part of businesses, perhaps some ramping up and last minute figuring things out in the weeks leading up to July 1st. Do you think overall small, medium sized businesses in Canada were really prepared in advance of July 1st, 2017?

Antoine: A lot of them were not. You know, I think it’s human nature may be to wait until last minute or when you really have to do something. We’re all guilty of that.

Hayley: Oh, yeah.

Antoine: So, no. And I understand also that small businesses they have a ton to do. I’ve been a small business owner myself so marketing was only a small part of my daily task and email marketing was even like a smaller portion of my overall concerns. So, maybe not, but it’s not too late. You can just follow the different steps, make sure you have the proper consent and make sure that you manage your list properly. Make sure that you use a tool that allows you to easily consent with CASL and you can still do email marketing today.

I think maybe one of the points that we want to reassure people is that you can still do email. Email that can still be a part of your marketing strategy. You just have to make sure that you respect a few little things. And for some people, nothing changed. If you were already respecting CASL or complying all with the industry best practice, maybe for you nothing has to change. But for certain people, they have to change some business procedures and that’s okay. We’re there to help. People can contact us via email. They can chat with us. We’re there to help. And we have a tool, that if you use our tool, we’ll make sure that it’s easy for you to comply.

Hayley: To your knowledge, Antoine, to what extent does email marketing, or did it in Canada rely on things that are no longer allowed under CASL? For example, people reaching out.

Antoine: Yeah, I think…

Hayley: Yeah, go ahead.

Antoine: I think it depends by industry. It’s hard to put a number on it. I would say it’s not the majority of people because I think the majority of small businesses just wanted to keep in touch with their clients or their customers, and to build trust and to build customer loyalty. And that’s fine, you can still do that. Really, that is still very legitimate business practice. And the rule of the law and the intention of the government was not to put a block to that. I think, really it’s for spammers or maybe people who did a lot of cold emails.

So, let’s say I want to promote my professional services, and I scrape the internet and I take a list of 200 people who have never heard of me and don’t know me, and they never agreed to receive emails from me, and they don’t know me. Then if you’re relying on a lot of that, a lot of cold outreach, I think you might have to revive your process. But other than that, you’re probably okay.

Hayley: I’m speaking with Antoine Bonicalzi. He is the Director of Marketing at Cyberimpact based in Montreal. We’ve been chatting about CASL and its impact on Canadian businesses with regard to their email marketing. I wanna move toward email marketing generally, and maybe you can tell our listeners a little bit about how this medium of communicating with clients, with business partners has evolved over the years. It’s grown quite sophisticated.

Antoine: Yes, absolutely, but I think the basics are still very effective. So far, a lot of small businesses, email marketing is still a big opportunity because a lot of small businesses have not really used it, at least maybe not very consistent. So, email marketing still has a big RIO, so a big return on investment, much higher than other advertising or other marketing channels. So, it’s still something that if you don’t really have a good grasp on it, that it should be a priority and it’s still a medium. It’s still something that consumers like to receive.

Now, of course, we all feel like we get too many emails in a day and it’s probably a true, but if you really like a brand, if you really like a certain company and you wanna make sure that you do not miss anything from them, you’ll want to subscribe to their email list. So, maybe we’re more picky as consumers when we decide who we give our emails to, but as I said, once you have permission to send someone messages directly into their inbox, there’s a proximity there. So, people feel like they know you, they know your brand.

But yes, you’re right. It’s a lot more sophisticated than it used to be. It’s not only about newsletter anymore. So, your newsletter might be something that you send out to all of your subscribers at one time. So, kind of, like, the monthly newsletter but today you can do a lot with marketing automation. So, you can program different email and email sequences that are going to be sent out automatically.

So, you spend some time, you map it out in your mind and you use a tool like Cyberimpact, and then you can basically do marketing while you sleep or while you’re busy doing other things as a small business owner. So, I think marketing automation is the next step to email marketing.

Hayley: Interesting. Now, I know, I, myself, subscribe to different newsletters, typically, from organizations or associations, BIV as a news organization has them, but if you’re an individual small business and if you’re working in a niche market. How do you ensure that you sort of have enough content that’s not completely promotional and almost spam-like, but still are on a regular and consistent basis reaching out to people?

Antoine: I think, and it’s probably possible in any niche or any industry, think about how you can educate your clients or your contacts. Maybe they’re customers, clients. Maybe they’re just prospects or people who have not converted yet and you wanna build a relationship based on putting yourself in their shoes, thinking about what are their problems, their questions or what frequent questions do people have before they buy, and create content around that.

Think of your email newsletter, or your email marketing efforts, or even marketing automation as a way to educate your audience. And when you educate your audience, people will want to stay subscribed to your email newsletter or your email list because you’re not just pitching them promotions, and when they’re ready to buy, then you will have stayed top of mind.

So, your goal should be to keep a relationship, a communication open and to build that “no trust and like” thing and make sure that you stay top of mind, so when people are ready to buy they will think of you. And you wanna build yourself as the expert in your niche. So, that’s how you can use email marketing to share that educational content and really get ahead from your competition by being that trustworthy expert in your niche.

Hayley: And really quickly before we have to go, social media marketing and having a presence on social media, something we talked about quite a bit on this show. Is it good to have email marketing campaign that complements that? Is it important to be on both? Or someone had to choose? Which one would you say is more useful?

Antoine: Yeah, I think they work together. So, it’s not one or the other so I’m not saying that small businesses should only use email because social media is another very effective tool but it’s not quite for the same purpose. So, social media you want to get new eyeballs, okay? So, you want to extend your reach. You wanna ensure that your message is broadcasted to a large audience. And then once people discovered you and discovered your great content, they will want a portion of them, will want to keep in touch and subscribe to your email list. And then you have like a more closer relationships with those subscribers.

So, that’s how I would think about it. Maybe social media is kind of talking to some people you know, but reaching out to strangers, and email has that friendly relationship with your clients.

Hayley: Yeah, a little bit more familiar.

Antoine: Yes.

Hayley: …great having you on the program. Thanks so much for joining me.

Antoine: Thanks for having me again.

Hayley: That’s Antoine Bonicalzi. He is the Director of Marketing at Cyberimpact based in Montreal. And that’s it for “Business in Vancouver” on Roundhouse radio 983. I’m Hayley Woodin. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back tomorrow.

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