By Madison Jacobs
Part 1 of the "Best Practices for Permission-Based Email Marketing" series
The term “permission-based" or "opt-in email" gets thrown around a lot, but many small businesses don’t understand exactly what it means or the best way to get and manage their email marketing permission. This is part one in a series of posts on the best practices for permission-based email marketing. In this post, I will cover the first two guidelines to follow when you are using email to market your business.
Don’t be an accidental spammer
It is always better to ask for permission to email ahead of time than to ask for forgiveness for spamming later. The cost of sending just one unsolicited email (or spam) far outweighs any potential benefit you could gain. Not only can it affect your reputation as an email sender, but it can also have hefty fines. Anytime you send an email to someone without their permission, you are sending spam. Yes, even if it is someone on your list that you have emailed before. If they haven’t requested to receive the specific information you are sending them in the email, then it is considered spam. To avoid becoming an accidental spammer, never email someone you don’t have permission to contact. Also, for those who are already on your list, make sure you make it clear what you are going to be emailing them about in the future. This means you can’t buy, rent or borrow an email list from a list broker, partner or third party. Building your email lists organically is the best way to promote your business and stay out of the spammer category.
Double up on permissions
A best practice for capturing permission is through a double opt-in email process. The first opt-in happens when a contact gives you their email address in a web form, over the phone or even at an event on a business card. Follow up with the contact by sending them an opt-in confirmation email. This email can say something like, “Thanks for sharing your email with us! Please confirm that you’d like to receive our emails in the future by clicking the link below.” Provide a link that they can click on that registers their email address as an address that has indicated permission. When the contact has clicked the link, they've completed the second opt-in. There are dozens of email marketing software providers that allow you to set this process up ahead of time. That way, it happens automatically. Getting a double opt-in confirmation allows you to be sure that your contact actually wants to hear from you and it significantly reduces your potential for spam complaints.
Now, let’s review: Always make sure you ask for permission to email someone and for even more protection, send an opt-in confirmation email to get a double opt-in from them. These steps will ensure your contacts are getting what they want to receive and will reduce your chances of becoming a spammer. In part two of this series, I will talk about how you maintain permission over time and how to set expectations for your list. What does your double opt-in message say?