How to Freshen up Stale Permission

If you were in business online a year ago, pause for a moment and think of the names and email addresses you collected back then.

These are the folks you’re still emailing with your newsletters or special offers.

But how “fresh” is the permission they gave you? Chances are, it’s pretty stale. A bit like that curled-over slice of pizza you lost under the couch a few weeks back.

Does it matter when permission gets stale? Sure it does. The folks who gave you that permission have traveled a lot of ground over the last 12 months. They’ve seen dot-coms come and go. They’ve signed up for a dozen other permission-based communications. Their inboxes are becoming jam-packed with solicitations, some welcome and some not so welcome.

Maybe they’ve tried to unsubscribe from your communications or have just become indifferent to them and delete them at first sight. Or maybe they still love you desperately and sit by their computers, waiting for your emails.

The point is, you don’t know.

So how about getting back to each subscriber every six months with an invitation to freshen up their permission?

Here’s what I’m thinking. As an example, we’ll use, imaginary purveyor of quality fastenings for the garment industry and serious hobbyists.

Let’s say a year ago I collected names for my newsletter with a simple opt-in area at my site: “Click here to receive our weekly newsletter.” One choice, one option.

One year later a lot of that “permission received” will have become stale. Also during the same period, much will have changed at So here’s what I would do. I would send subscribers an email (I still have their permission, even if it’s hanging by a thread in some cases), and here’s what I would say:

    Dear [name”,

    You’ve been a subscriber to the Newsletter for a long time now — and I want to make sure it’s still giving you the information you need.

    If you have a few moments, I’d be very grateful if you could just check your preferences below.

    1. Do you find the Newsletter as useful today as you did when you first subscribed?

      [ ” Yes [ ” No If not, why?…………………

    2. Do you think this newsletter would be improved by the addition of any of the following? Check as many as you like.

      [ ” More links to other sources of fastening-industry news.

      [ ” A calendar of industry events and conferences.

      [ ” The option to choose from a selection of shorter newsletters that are more tightly targeted to your area of interest.

      [ ” A career and job-finding feature.

      Any other suggestions? ……………………………..

    Finally, if you’d like to unsubscribe from our newsletter and not receive anything further from us, check here [ ”.

    Best wishes,


A couple more drafts would improve the text, but I’m sure you get the idea. And, yes, the unsubscribe option at the end is scary. But there’s no point in irritating customers and deluding yourself if your newsletter or emails are no longer of interest.

Figure out how this would apply to your business, and you’ll not only be recuperating some stale permissions, but you’ll also be moving them up a notch or two.

When your customers become participants by checking those boxes, they also become part of what you’re doing — and will be far more likely to read your next few newsletters or emails a lot more carefully.

Then, six months later, do it again.

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