When a door-to-door salesperson knocks at the door, most people don’t answer – they may even act like they’re not home. When a telemarketer calls, they simply don’t answer either. These kinds of salespeople are accustomed to rejection. They know most people don’t want to engage with them or buy what they’re selling.
With email marketing, however, you can now annoy people without having to feel the sting of rejection. If you only have a 20% open rate and .05 conversion rate, it’s okay. You’ll just send emails to more people in hopes of better results.
But you know this isn’t the way to get new customers, right?
Then how do you ensure your emails are greeted – at least – with a welcoming smile and a little tendency to read or engage with, or even better: a high purchasing potential?
It’s all about doing email marketing right, from beginning till end. They say: “A good beginning makes a good end”, and in this case, permission-based email marketing would be the best first step along the way.
Permission-based email marketing (aka opt-in email marketing) is a term thrown around a lot nowadays, but many small businesses don't understand exactly what it means or the best way to get and manage their email marketing permission.
In fact, permission based email marketing is the foundation of every successful email marketing strategy. It begins with making sure you are getting permission before adding new contacts to your email list. Technically, it often involves asking website visitors (for example) to opt into an email list.
Asking for permission is a simple concept, but it has huge ramifications for your small business as it shows your audience that you respect both their privacy and requirements. It also ensures that you’re only communicating with people who are interested in hearing from your business.
Moreover, it is a lot better to ask for permission to email ahead of time than ask for forgiveness for having your domain emails labelled as spam later. The cost of sending just one unsolicited email (or spam) far outweighs any potential benefit you could gain.
Not only does sending out unsolicited emails 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. To avoid becoming an accidental spammer, never email someone you don't have permission to contact.
Now that you're sold on the importance of permission-based email marketing, this guide is going to go into detail about some of the more technical aspects, and then dive into some pro tips for increasing your email opt-in rate.
Unlike a single opt-in system, in which subscribers provide their email address through a signup form and are immediately added to an email list, double opt-in systems create an additional layer of protection to prevent fake email addresses or contacts who aren’t really that interested in your emails from signing up. Some marketers think this is bad because you’re creating too much friction in the signup process, but the result can be a much higher quality list in the end.
A double opt-in email marketing process is definitely the best practice for obtaining contact permissions. It is a simple, 2-step process that involves asking your subscriber(s) to confirm their subscription after they’ve provided their email address.
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.
The second opt-in happens after a new contact signs in using a web form. If you have double opt-in set up your email marketing software it will send the new subscriber 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/button below." You can also add something like: “If you’ve received this by mistake or never actually submitted your email into our mailing list, you do not need to do anything – simply delete this message.” The email will have a link or button that the willing subscriber must click on to indicate permission. When they've clicked the link, they've completed the second opt-in.
For those who sign up over the phone or in person at an event, you should still send them an opt-in confirmation email. That means you need to set your email marketing software to send confirmation emails even when you manually enter the contact information. Sometimes this requires an extra set-up step, so double-check all your settings to make sure this is happening.
Lucky for you, almost every email marketing software provider enables you to easily set up double opt-ins so they happen automatically.
A double opt-in system guarantees that your list has only valid email addresses. This prevents any issues with contacts making typos in the signup form or bad actors using email addresses that don’t belong to them because you have to click confirm in order to be added to the list.
Additionally, if you have contacts that sign up but are only casually interested in your offers, they might not be willing to confirm their subscription. This saves you the pain of having a disengaged subscriber in your list harming your overall email campaign performance.
So even if you miss out on a subscriber, it’s actually a good thing in the end because they weren’t qualified in the first place.
Moreover, getting a double opt-in confirmation allows you to ensure that your contact actually wants to hear from you and it significantly reduces your potential not only for spam complaints (which harms your ‘sender reputation’), but also for unhappy contacts shouting annoyance in return.
A double opt-in email doesn’t have to be a plain old boring confirmation email, you can – instead – use a glamorous welcome email that leverages your opportunity to showcase your brand in the email design, introduce your business, and even include a nice message welcoming new subscribers. This provides a more personalized experience for the subscriber because they get to know a little bit more about you before receiving any of your emails, which, in turn, drives their decisive will to opt in for your regular email campaigns.
While a double opt-in is not required by the GDPR, it not only enables you to show proof of consent for each of your contacts that you’re keeping in your database. But also gives you the extra level of protection from someone submitting the email address of someone else without their knowledge.
In your very first email that you send to a prospect, make sure you set expectations about two things: frequency and content.
Frequency: Ensure you tell contacts how often they are going to receive emails from you. So, if you send a newsletter every month, tell them that. They opted in so they want your content and they want to know when they are going to get it. Remember, you want people to expect your email. You don't want people to be surprised or upset that you are emailing them, potentially triggering them to hit the "this is spam" button on their email program.
Content: Always let your subscribers know what kind of content you are going to be sending them. If they signed up for a newsletter, give them a preview of upcoming content at the end of the current newsletter.
People are much more likely to open your emails and read them if you tell them what's coming and when it's coming. If you haven't set expectations correctly, you're likely to get spam complaints from people who receive unexpected messages in their inbox.
Another viable best practice is to let your subscribers choose how often they receive emails from you. Also, give them the ability to choose what type of content they want to receive. This will show your subscribers that you value their time and their interests and most importantly, their inbox.
By giving your subscribers control over what they receive and how often they receive it, you dramatically reduce your chances for spam complaints.
Remember, just because you are using a permission-based email marketing structure does not guarantee you won't have any spam complaints. So, the more control you give to your subscribers, the less spam you send. It's a win-win.
Note: Most email providers enable you to place a link in all of the emails you send that guides subscribers to an area where they can select their preferences.
Permissions do not last forever. In fact, they must be earned with every communication. So, even if you have established a good email relationship and allow your subscribers to manage their preferences, you still have work to do.
To stay welcome in your subscriber's inbox, you need to make sure that all of your emails are interesting, related to your services/products and timely. Make sure your subject lines are relevant to what is in the body of the email. Also, highlight things that are time sensitive in your emails to stand out from other content. And, always let your subscribers know when you will be touching base with them again.
Another best practice for a successful Permission-based Email Marketing suggests that when a person gives you permission to communicate with them, you need to communicate with them ASAP. Otherwise, you run the risk of the permission you collected expiring.
Expert’s advice: Make sure you don’t allow for any long time distances to be created between you and your contacts. Instead, focus on emailing your prospects on a regular basis and maintain a good contact with them by keeping them posted on your latest updates, offers, news, blogs, and so on. This will help you ensure your prospects still have you in mind, making them less likely to be distracted by the value / updates offered by your competition.
If – for any reason – you have been suspending your regular newsletter or e-marketing campaigns (or you have prospects that you haven’t contacted) for six months or more, you may work on gaining their permission again. You can do this simply by sending them another opt-in email making sure they still want to hear from you. This way, you can get them to opt-in again or clean them off of your list if they opt out.
Of course, we’re not suggesting that you bombard your prospects’ mailboxes with “asking for permission” emails every now and then. This process should happen ONLY over long periods of time (when no contact has been made for +6 months). You can also gain this kind of permission differently every 6 months and in an indirect way. Consider the following examples for more clarification:
Send those prospects an email asking them about how they are / how they’ve been.
Include the sense of “It’s been a long time, yet we’re still here” or “Heard of our latest solutions/services/news?”, and so on.
Make sure you include a message such as: “if you’re still willing to receive from us, kindly let us know by clicking the “reconfirmation button” below.
Also Make sure you also include the “unsubscribe link / button” at the end of any email you’re willing to send after such a long time, so that if a user no longer wants to receive from you, they can simply opt out.
While you wouldn’t like it for subscribers to opt out of receiving from you, you still have to give them the option to get out if they want to.
The number one reason why you should give people the ability to opt out is to avoid spam complaints. Instead of sending emails to people who don't want them and end up marking them as spam, allow them a way out so you can remove them from your list and avoid the repercussions that spam complaints can have on your email marketing strategy.
Also make sure you don’t hide the opt-out link in your regular marketing emails either. The opt-out link should be easy to find in all of your emails. If you are giving your subscribers good content, they should not want to opt out. And if they do opt out, then you can rest assured they are not currently a good lead for your business. This is the difference between the opt-in vs. opt-out, in fact. When someone opts in, they are raising their hand as a lead. When they opt out, they are lowering their hand.
Note: Don't fret about those subscribers who opt out. Because you have established an honest, open relationship with them through email, you have earned their trust. And trust builds customers in the long run. There's a good chance they'll come back.
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