Opting for Results

“Permission marketing” is the buzzword for the politically correct way to manage your customer relationships today. It means you must have consent before you email anything to anybody. There’s opt-in and opt-out, double opt-in and double opt-out, and lots to talk about, but here’s one simple fact right up front: Someone who fails to opt-out has not opted in.

I’m going to assume that you are not a spammer and you really do have your customers’ best interests at heart. You want to inform them, and you want to know whether they want to be informed. Are we on the same page? Cool. Then let’s focus on opting for results.

Any form of opting in, whether it’s for a newsletter, future mailings, membership, registration, or simply a request for information, involves an exchange of value. You get something that you want from your prospects (usually contact or marketing information), and your prospects get something from you that they want. It’s a very simple equation.

It’s only when folks start feeling that you’re taking advantage of them that things take a turn for the worse. So do your permission marketing with sensitivity, sense, and style.

DO make the opt-in procedure simple.

DO adhere to your policy that you won’t share this information in any way without the customer’s permission. If that’s not your policy, then…

DO make it crystal clear that you are in the practice of passing along customer information if this is what you do. Explain the details of what, when, and with whom, and give your customers an out if they want their information to remain private.

DON’T ask for any more information than you absolutely need, unless there is some real value to your customers in providing it; otherwise, they will simply opt-out, and you’ll lose.

DO allow the customers to agree, or not, to different mailings from you. If they agree to receive a newsletter, that’s the only thing they are expecting from you. You might have in mind to send them lots of other stuff too, but get their permission before you go flooding them with it. Fail to do this, and you are likely to find them opting-out in a hurry.

DO provide immediate visual confirmation that the opt-in (or opt-out) procedure was completed successfully.

DO follow up with an email confirmation that includes the following:

  • Your appreciation
  • The information the customer provided
  • A reminder of what the customer has subscribed to or requested
  • Your contact information
  • How to unsubscribe if the confirmation was sent in error

DON’T opt for double opt-ins. A double opt-in means your customer signs up for something on your site, then receives some form of communication from you that requires her essentially to sign up again: “Reply to this email to confirm your registration.” Some people do it, but it is completely unnecessary and only confuses the situation. When was the last time you placed the items you wanted to buy at the cash register and heard the cashier ask, “Are you sure you want to buy these things?” You don’t have to make folks jump through an extra hoop for a sale that’s already closed! If the communication was sent in error, your unsubscribe information will be sufficient.

However, if you are in the business of selling lists, you do need a double opt-in. Without it, you sacrifice quality and risk ticking off your customers. You must be sure your customers agree to let you share their information with others. This also ensures the cleanest possible list.

DO include unsubscribe information in every communication you send.

However, this information does not have to be a direct hyperlink, nor should you feel you need to make it too easy to opt-out. It’s a fine line you walk here; you don’t want folks opting out just because they got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. By the same token, you must make it possible for them to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” An extra step or two to the opt-out procedure is acceptable.

DO test, double-test, and triple-test your opt-in and opt-out procedures to be certain that they work properly. Folks get grumpy when they opt in to something and never get value for having done it. And they get really grumpy when they opt out but keep getting your mailings. Either way, you are abusing your customers, and they aren’t going to take it kindly. Nor are they going to say nice things about you to their friends.

DO these things effectively and in good faith, and you’ll have your customers feeling happy about having opted in. And satisfied customers are far more likely to opt in to a purchase!

DON’T manage your permission marketing scrupulously, and you can kiss not only your existing customers but also your potential customers goodbye.

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