I'll Kiss You Unless You Tell Me Not To

This article starts by saying one thing. Then appears to say the opposite. And then attempts to make sense of the conflict.

Here goes

If you want your prospects and customers to stay with you for the long haul, to keep responding to your offers, you need to create a relationship that works for them.

And if you want to create a relationship, you have to start with an opt-in invitation. It’s that permission thing.

In the world of bricks and mortar, that would translate as:

“May I kiss you?”

You’re asking permission before you presume. That’s opt-in.

Here’s the opt-out version:

“I’ll kiss you unless you tell me not to.”

In the real world this approach has a poor track record when it comes to starting relationships that last. Besides which, there are some legal issues to consider. Like harassment.

When you take the opt-out route in the world of direct marketing, this means you are forcing the relationship and are unlikely to see the kind of response rates you’re hoping for.

You can’t harass someone into becoming a high-response, repeat customer.

This sounds like great sense to me. So explain the following:

From the eToys.com privacy statement…

‘When you purchase products from eToys or register for any eToys services, we automatically place you on our list to receive email regarding updates about special offers, new products, and new services. If you do not wish to receive email updates, please send an email to remove@etoys.com and type “remove” in the subject line.’

This from Amazon.com

‘We may also use the information we collect to occasionally notify you about important functionality changes to the web site, new Amazon.com services, and special offers we think you’ll find valuable. If you would rather not receive this information, visit your Amazon.com Subscriptions page to change your preferences.’

This from CDNOW.com

‘To customize the information you wish to receive from us, or to let us know you do not wish to receive email from us, simply visit the Preferences area of My CDNOW and select the information you wish to receive.’

If the “May I kiss you?” route is the way to go, how come just about every large e-commerce site I come across is saying, “I’ll kiss you unless you tell me not to.”

Here, I think, is the answer.

It’s all in the math. And inertia.

If your customers have to opt out of receiving your promotional emails, most won’t. Because it requires an extra click or two. So the inertia of your customers works in your favor.

On the other hand, if your customers have to opt in to receive your promotional emails, most won’t. For the same reason. So the inertia works against you.

So – if opt-out is the real answer, why do I keep going on about the benefits of getting ‘permission’?

Because if you do receive permission, and then build on that permission carefully, you’re far more likely to find yourself with a long-term, high-value customer.

Sounds like a conflict here.

What’s the answer? Try this

Build your customer base in two stages.

First, gather as many names as possible by the opt-out method described by eToys.com, Amazon.com, and CDNOW.com

Second, quickly convert as many of these people as possible into opt-in customers. Before irritation overcomes inertia.

How is one to do that? We’ll figure something out next week.

Related reading