In an article at EmailLabs, Loren McDonald discusses her stand on permission not being optional in email marketing.
According to McDonald, email marketing has become standard practice for legitimate email marketers. Many marketers, however, are used to working with other channels such as print, radio, TV or direct mail, which do not require getting permission first. These marketers, therefore, mistakenly think that permission is also optional in email marketing.
The author points out that email is a personal medium like the telephone, and both telemarketing and unsolicited email have become unwelcome to most people. On the other hand, marketing to people who have already expressed their interest in hearing from you brings:
- better response rates,
- increased trust and brand affinity, and
- better deliverability.
In other words, she says, even if building a permission-based house list and creating targeted, relevant offers and messages takes time and money, it gets better results and is the only way to build email relationships with customers and subscribers.
McDonalds defines permission as the user’s consent to receive emails from you, but breaks it down into “expressed” and “implied” consent.
Expressed permission, she says, is given by the user by checking a box requesting emails on a site-registration form or point-of-purchase postcard, agreeing in person or sending in an email request. Implied permission, on the other hand, is not actively given but is the result of not removing the checkmark from a pre-checked email-permission box on a site registration form, or clicking the “agree” button on an end-users agreement that lists receipt of email as a condition of using the site.
The author believes that only expressed permission is acceptable, and equates implied permission with opt-out.
McDonald reports that the 2003 US CAN-SPAM law permits opt-out marketing provided that it includes a working unsubscribe function and must include language that the message is “a promotional email” within the message. She asserts, though, that the law merely establishes legal criteria and not best practices.
In McDonald’s opinion, best practice means only permission email marketing or opt-in, which also has two levels:
- “Single opt-in” means the recipient gets automatically added to a list by completing a Web opt-in form, sending in a postcard, or emailing a request.
- “Double opt-in” or “confirmed opt-in” means the recipient requests a subscription, thereby generating an automated email message to which he or she must reply or click a link to confirm the subscription before being added to the list.
The author cites several studies from IMT Strategies in 2001, Harris Poll in 2003, Quris in 2003 and AOL in 2004 showing that permission-based email lists:
- improve click rates;
- are much less likely to be deleted unread by recipients;
- are much less likely to provoke annoyance among recipients;
- generate fewer unsubscribes;
- generate fewer spam complaints; and
- generate fewer blocks.
McDonalds also warns against the dangers of non-permission email:
- Most of the email addresses may not exist anymore or may block your messages, thus, wasting your investment.
- Spam-reporting services can file spam complaints against you or report you to blacklists, and ISPs and email providers will then block everything coming from your email address, IP address, or domain or company name.
Why risk your money on people who have demonstrated no interest in your product or services, the author asks, when permission-based email marketing just makes more sense, both for customer relations and your marketing budget?
Let’s hope email marketers listen up.