Your complete guide to the approval process

As an email service provider (ESP) our most important job is ensuring you a reliable service with great deliverability. To do this we need to make sure that everyone sending emails through the system is doing so with permission from people on the receiving end.

The approval process is how we check in to make sure everyone is sticking to best practice, and also catch the people trying to abuse our service who can create problems for us all.

Important: A first-time approval for new accounts, or new clients added to your account, can take anywhere from a few hours (if all is well) to a few days (if we need need to work with you to make some changes) to be processed. Please be aware that notification to start an approval is not given until the email campaign is created and recipients selected.

On this page:

How the approval process works

Our team will review your email collection methods to make sure they comply with our anti-spam policy and permission guidelines. We also look at campaign content to ensure subscribers are getting what they opted in for, and can easily opt out if they no longer want the emails.

Our system for doing approvals is a tiered structure based on the number of subscribers your email campaigns are sent to. Every client starts on the same tier, which is an approved "send limit" of somewhere between 5,000 and 9,000 recipients per campaign. We do not reveal the exact send limit for approval tiers because it helps reduce the risk of abuse from people attempting to send without permission.

Typically the only time you'd go through this process is when you'd like to send a campaign to more people than you've already been approved for. When that happens a notification is displayed at the top of the campaign snapshot page, as shown here:

The notification message, pictured above, is exactly the same for account administrators as it is for clients with permission to send campaigns, but we handle things differently if it's a client who starts the approval process.

Email campaigns that trigger an approval cannot be sent until our compliance team have completed the review process. If successful, your send limit is increased to the next approval tier and you should not expect another approval notice for some time.

Note: There are other situations in which you might need to go through an extra approval process, such as an abnormally high bounce or complaint rate, but the procedure is much the same and our team will help you through it.

Turnaround time for approvals

We have compliance team members around the world dedicated to handling approvals so we can get them done fast. The longest it will ever take us to get to a campaign after it's been submitted for approval is 12 hours — usually much less! From there, the review process is often completed within a few hours if you've provided all the information we need.

Below are some tips for getting your campaign approval seen to quickly:

Tip 1. Prepare for approvals early

Approvals don't come around that often but they can pop up unexpectedly if you don't notice that your, or your client's, campaign sizes are nearing the approved send limit.

To avoid any surprises it's worthwhile preparing for approvals early, especially if you send time-sensitive campaigns like event promotions or sales announcements. See our checklist for starting the approval process for information on what to prepare.

Tip 2. Start the approval process without delay

We say this because, as soon as you submit a response for approval, that's when your campaign is added to our 'approvals pending' queue where it can be actioned by the next available team member.

However, you should only hurry to submit a response if you are adequately prepared. We have to be thorough with every approval. If you haven't given us enough information to work with, the first thing we'll do is reply to your first response with more questions, pushing you further down the queue.

Tip 3. Make final campaign changes later

It's safe to start the approval process even if your campaign is not quite ready to send. A successful approval will not automatically send the campaign, so you can make final changes after we've notified you of approval.

Note: We do need to see final draft content for the review process so your campaign should be as close to what you intend to send as possible.

Client approval versus account approval

Campaign Monitor is designed so you can add individual customers to your account, as "clients," and manage each of them separately. This section explains how approvals work if you have some clients that you send for, and some clients with permission to send their own campaigns.

If you're not sure what the setup is, open Clients. Any clients who are sending for themselves will be listed under a section labeled with that heading, as shown here:

Clients sending for themselves

Clients with permission to send their own campaigns need to go through the approval process individually. Every client that you give permission to send will start on the first approval tier and, if their campaign size (the number of recipients they're sending to) exceeds the send limit for that tier, they'll need to go through the approval process.

Clients you're sending for

For clients that you have not given permission to send, we'll use your account-wide approval level. Your account also starts on the first approval tier. If one of the clients you're sending for exceeds that send limit you'll need to go through the approval process.

If successful, your account will be bumped up to the next approval tier and the increased send limit will cover all clients you're sending for. We do this because we trust that you're having the same discussions with each new client about permission and list gathering that you had with the client we approved you for.

Note: The approval process is not the only way we check in on accounts. We'll also contact you if we notice irregularities such as a high number of spam complaints, or an abnormal amount of bounced emails.

How to check for upcoming approvals

As an account administrator you can see what the current send limit is for any client in Client Settings. You'll find it below the client's name, as shown here:

If you have clients sending for themselves, the first send limit referenced is the clients' followed by your account send limit, as shown here:

By keeping an eye on the "List Activity" feed in your account, which you can also subscribe to via RSS, you'll see if any clients are sending campaigns of a size that will soon exceed their send limit.

Tip: If an important campaign is coming up, you're welcome to get in touch with us to get an approval for yourself or a client started early.

How to start the approval process

When the number of recipients selected for a campaign exceeds your current approved send limit, a notification will be displayed above the campaign snapshot. That's the page displayed immediately after you've set up an email campaign and selected a subscriber list, or lists, to send it to.

Clicking Start the approval process will load a form page that looks like this:

On the left is an editable text area where we need you, or your client, to write an explanation about how the campaign recipients opted in.

When you've written a response (see our tips in the following section) and made sure your campaign is approval ready, click Send Message to start the approval. This will immediately add your campaign to the queue for pending approvals so our first available team member can pick it up.

Checklist for starting the approval process

This section is to help you get your campaign approval completed with as few interactions as possible. The turnaround time can be really fast if you have all bases covered before starting the approval.

Conditions of use

Every campaign is required to meet Campaign Monitor's terms of use which include:

You must also comply with all applicable legal requirements (for example, CAN-SPAM) for the country you're sending from and countries you're sending to.

Proof of permission

To start the approval process you need to submit a permission explanation. Use the following checklist to make sure your response covers everything we need to know:

  • Read our permission guidelines and make sure your mailing list meets those guidelines.
  • List all the different ways you've collected email addresses. For example, did some come from in-store sign ups, and some on your website?
  • Provide either written or digital proof of permission, for example: URLs for online subscribe forms, scanned copies of offline signups, copies of confirmed opt-in by personal email correspondence.
  • Be descriptive and specific about the actions subscribers took to opt in. Telling us, "They signed up at trade shows and in our store" is good, but it's not enough. We need to know exactly how or why they signed up at those places.
  • For offline signups, explain in detail how people actually joined. For example, did they verbally agree to be added to your list at a conference, or sign a form during a business meeting?
  • If your recipients are paying customers, tell us how long ago they were customers, and how often you've emailed them since they purchased from you.

Content approval

Proof of permission is integral to the approval process but campaign content is equally important. That's because, even if your entire mailing list is confirmed opt-in you can still receive spam complaints from subscribers. If that happens, we have to deal with the repercussions, which is why we need to see your content.

We'll get back to you after the initial review if any campaign changes are required. Your best bet for reducing the time it could take to make changes is to be aware of the campaign do's and don'ts

  • Include a permission reminder that clearly explains to the recipient how or why they're receiving your emails.
  • Clearly identify who you are. The "From" name and email address should accurately identify the person or business sending the email, and your subject line should make it clear to subscribers what you're sending to them.
Do not:
  • Send information about third party products or services instead of your products or services. A line in the small print saying, “I’ll occasionally email you stuff from affiliates” tells us you’re at least trying to be honest about it but the fact is no one reads the fine print and it will not stop people clicking the “spam” button.
  • Make your unsubscribe link difficult to find or use, for example a multi-step unsubscribe process or asking people to enter their email address to unsubscribe.
  • Send content that resembles spam, such as subject lines full of "FREE! WIN! SALE!" or image-heavy campaigns with very little text content.
  • Load your campaign with features about sporting goods and equipment, for example, when your signup page promoted homewares and kitchen appliances.

Content and sender details aside, you can also annoy people by sending content more frequently than you said you would, or so infrequently that recipients can't remember who you are.

Note: Successfully passing the approval process will not automatically send your campaign. So it's safe to start an approval even if you're not quite ready to send.

How we handle approvals for your clients

The information in this section applies to those who offer Campaign Monitor as a service to their clients, and one or more clients have access to send their own campaigns.

Clients with permission to send have a separate send limit and will go through the approval process themselves, if their campaign size (based on the number of recipients) warrants it. When an approval is triggered they'll see a notification message above the campaign snapshot:

The message displayed is the same as you would see for your own client, and when your client clicks Start the approval process they'll get the same form page we pictured earlier to submit a response.

The difference with the approval process for clients is, after they've submitted a response, we will not contact them directly to follow up. If your client has not supplied enough information about their email collection methods, or their campaign does meet our terms, we'll email you about it. You'll then need to follow up with your client and respond to us.

What your client will see in their account

Your client will not see any questions we send back to you. As soon as they've started the approval process, and when the review is taking place, your client will see an "Under review" status next to their draft campaign, as shown here:

If they click that link, they'll just see the form page with the permission explanation they submitted. Clicking the title of the draft campaign will open the snapshot page, where the approval notification message will have changed to let them know approval is pending:

If there is no need for our compliance team to follow up with your client, and the campaign is approved to send, we'll send your client a non-branded (no mention of Campaign Monitor) email notification and also send an email to your account email address

Why we do approvals

We can't ensure that all contacts added to subscriber lists have stated their consent to be emailed. The repercussions of sending to lists where permission is unclear, or non-existent can include: blacklistings, spam complaints and lowered email deliverability.

This doesn't just affect your ability to deliver to the inbox. If you have multiple clients they will be affected too, and it also impacts others using the system because it damages our sender reputation and relationships with ISPs.

We understand the approval process can be frustrating if you're not prepared for it, but it's safe to say you would not want us to overlook another customer's mailing list which could be non-compliant. Another customer's mistake could result in your email campaigns bouncing due to our sending IPs getting blacklisted.


Why do I need approval for subscriber lists I've been sending to for ages?

Approvals are triggered when the number of recipients selected for a campaign exceeds the current send limit you are approved for.

So there are two reasons why you may need to do an approval for a list you've already been sending to:

  • The subscriber list has grown over time, or you've just imported a number of new subscribers, which has tipped the list over your send limit. The list growth itself won't trigger an approval, but next time you set up a campaign and select the list to send to, it will.
  • You have multiple lists which, in total, exceed your send limit but you don't usually send to all of them at once. The first time you do select multiple lists, and the number of recipients exceeds your send limit, it will trigger an approval.

Note: When we do an approval that includes recipients you're already sending to, we review subscriber activity so we can advise you on the current health of your list.

How often will I need to be approved?

This is entirely dependant on the growth of your or your client's campaign sizes; meaning the number of recipients each email is being sent to. The send limit difference (meaning the number of recipients you're allowed to send to) from one approval tier to the next is in the thousands.

Typically you will only need approval when the number of recipients for a campaign send nearly doubles in size.

I've been approved already, so why can't my client send?

Any client that you give sending permission to has to go through the approval process themselves, as explained here.

What email address will you use to contact me about approvals?

All account emails are sent to your account email address. If you have multiple account administrators, emails will be sent to the primary contact.