A couple of weeks back I wrote an article under the title, “I’ll Kiss You Unless You Tell Me Not To.”
I got a bit of feedback on that.
A few people were a little surprised by the fact that I closed the article by suggesting that e-commerce sites collect as many names as possible through a two-step process. A process that begins with an opt-out opener.
Let me add a little meat to what I began to suggest…
At first contact, collect as many names as possible through an opt-out approach. So when you first make a purchase at my site, I’ll add you to my general newsletter list. Automatically. Unless you tell me not to.
Convert as many of those folks as possible into an opt-in audience. So before too many people become irritated by the ‘interruption’ of my automatic newsletter, I’ll encourage them to opt-in to some other service or communication.
It’s a two-step kind of dance with the customer. Kiss them quick and then ask permission before kissing them the second time.
Some of the feedback I received suggested that I was a bad person for recommending this. After all, it’s not nice to kiss people without asking them first. Some people expected better of me. They expected me to be ‘Mr.100% Opt-in.’
Well, I suspect the sad truth of the matter is, nice guys really do finish last. (In real life, I know this to be true. I was one of those really nice guys in my youth and never got to kiss anybody.)
In e-commerce, the way it’s shaping up right now, I think you need to go beyond being ‘Mr.100% Opt-in.’
But if you are going to steal that first kiss — if you do start with an opt-out opener — you have to be really careful.
Because permission still rules.
Here are a few guidelines to playing the opt-out opening:
1. Make it truly opt-out.
That is to say, you really do give people a simple and immediately visible mechanism by which they can say, ‘No thanks.’
You don’t do what eToys.com does. On its web site, where they could perfectly easily provide a box to check or uncheck, they say this:
‘If you do not wish to receive email updates, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and type “remove” in the subject line.’
This is just sneaky. Instead of giving a one-click opt-out option, they deliberately make it hard. Don’t do that.
2. Remember that an opt-out list is a very short-term asset.
You’ll have a lot of people there who don’t really want to be on your list. Take active steps to convert that first-touch, opt-out audience. Convert them into visitors who give you active permission to market.
How? Use your first couple of outbound emails to encourage people to opt-in to some other service from your site. You’ve opened by forcing your attention on them. So now you give them an opportunity to opt-in. Before they leave you.
Can you try the opt-out opener on any audience? No, you can’t.
If I tried it on the subscribers to the forkinthehead.com newsletter, they’d crucify me. Because our readers work in the online industry. Early adopters hate opt-out.
But right now, if I worked for a major online retailer and constructed a carefully thought-out opt-out opener, aimed at regular folk, I think I could achieve that with very few complaints.
And the site’s investors would love the math.
Because with an opt-out opener, I bet I would end up with a bigger opt-in list than another guy who started with opt-in alone.
In the increasingly competitive world of e-commerce, I suspect that nice guys will finish last.