You know how it goes. You settle into a nice dinner with your family or have just tuned in to the season finale of your favorite TV show when the phone rings. It’s a sales call. You didn’t ask for it, and it certainly isn’t happening at an opportune time. Even if the salesperson is offering something you might be interested in, you likely feel interrupted and frustrated since you didn’t give out your phone number in the first place. Email marketing is no different in this regard, and sending unsolicited emails to people who don’t want to receive them might get you a random conversion here and there, but it will land you in hot water with the Internet service providers (ISP)s, ruin long-term brand-loyal relationships, and damage your reputation.
Permission email marketing occurs when recipients have taken action to explicitly request you add them to your email address list. For example, your favorite restaurant is sending you permission email marketing messages after you give them your email address. In this case, the emails may contain menu items, specials, or unique offers.
Permission is the key to any good email program. Like I’ve said a thousand times, email is about building a relationship that will ultimately drive brand value and increase revenue. Sending unsolicited emails to a prospect’s or customer’s already clogged inbox will not get you very far. If you think that getting permission to send email to someone is optional, think again.
Checks and boxes
True opt-in means your subscribers are opting in by choice and checking a box on their own good will. Someone on your list who simply has not opted out should not be considered an opt-in. Or put another way, not unsubscribing or not checking the Do Not Send box is not the same level of permission as someone who willingly checks the Subscribe or Send Me Email options.
The first recommendation I have when it comes to gaining permission to email a prospect or customer is to never precheck a box for them. Say you visit a website for a company that sells widgets. You want someone to call you about the company’s different products, so you complete the contact form on the company website. As you are about to click Submit, you notice a box at the very bottom that has a check in it indicating that you would like to subscribe to the company’s email program for special offers and promotions.
Often times, website visitors don’t notice this box is checked and are tricked into subscribing. This is not the way to run a responsible email program. You need to put the potential subscribers in the driver’s seat when it comes to email. Assuming they want email communications from you and creating the extra step of unchecking a box or, even worse, unsubscribing, won’t work in your favor or theirs. You might get a bigger list but not a better list. If you are still focused on list growth by any means, you can skip ahead to Truth 17, and read what CBS SportsLine did in terms of making sure it had a list full of active subscribers.