The term “permission-based email” gets thrown around a lot, but many small business marketers don’t know exactly what it means or the best way to get and manage email marketing permission. Here are a few basic guidelines to get you started.
1. Don’t be an accidental spammer.
It’s always better to ask for permission to email than to ask for forgiveness for spamming. The cost of sending unsolicited email (or spam) far outweighs any potential benefit. Not only can it affect your reputation as an email sender, it can also result in heavy fines.
Most marketers think that as long as they don’t send emails offering prescription drugs, they are not spamming. This isn’t true. Any time you email someone without permission, you are sending spam. To make sure you don’t become an accidental spammer, never email someone you don’t have permission to contact. It should go without saying, but this means you can’t buy, rent or borrow an email list from a list broker, partner or third party.
2. Get double opt-in permission.
The best practice for capturing permission is through a double opt-in process. The first “opt-in” happens when a contact first gives you their email address (either through a webform, over the phone or at a trade show). Follow up by sending an opt-in confirmation email that says, “Thanks for sharing your email address. Please confirm that you’d like to receive our emails by clicking this link.” When the contact clicks the link, they have completed the second opt-in.
Getting double opt-in confirmation allows you to be absolutely sure that your contacts want to hear from you and significantly reduces your potential for spam complaints.
3. Maintain permission over time.
When someone gives you permission to communicate with them, the clock starts ticking. If you don’t communicate with them right away, you run the risk of your permission expiring and rotting. If permission rots and you send email, you run a very high risk of incurring spam complaints. Generally, if you haven’t emailed a person in six months, you should work on gaining permission again.
4. Set expectations.
In your first email to subscribers, you should set expectations about two things: frequency and content. Tell your subscribers how often you’ll be sending email and let them know what type of information you’ll be sending. People are much more likely to open your emails and read them if they’re expecting them. On the other hand, if you haven’t set expectations correctly, you’re likely to get spam complaints from people who receive an unexpected email from you in their inbox.
5. Allow subscribers to manage their preferences.
Let people choose how often they receive emails from you and what type of content they will receive. By giving subscribers control, you reduce your chance for spam complaints.
6. Provide value in every email.
Permission doesn’t last forever. In fact, it must be earned with every communication. So even if you’ve established a good email relationship with your list, remember that in order to stay welcome in their inbox, you need to send relevant, interesting content that your subscribers value.
7. Give them an out.
Always be sure to give your subscribers the ability to opt out of your email communications. Don’t hide the link. Be upfront about it. The truth is, if you’re giving them good content and they still want to opt out, they’re not a good lead. Let them go.