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Think Before You Automatically Opt Someone In

One of the biggest names in consumer credit cards recently sent me a notice about updating my marketing preferences.  As a fellow marketer, I think it's a smart move to allow consumers to manage their preferences, and I am typically pleased to be given the opportunity to do so…until I read the letter more carefully.

The letter first stated that I didn't currently receive any mailings from the company. But instead of following with some compelling arguments on why I should consider opting in to receiving their campaigns – they flipped it around.  Unless I replied with my preferences, they were going to automatically opt me in to receive all of their mailings. This is a bold and dangerous move.

I actually had to re-read the letter a few times to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding what they were asking.  But there it was, in black and white, "If you do not respond, you may begin to receive offers in the mail about these products and services."

Of course, some might argue that at least they gave me the option to opt-out of receiving their campaigns. However, I would counter that the smarter approach would be to send a carefully crafted message about the benefits of opting in.  They could give me the same options for the types of communications I wanted to receive – as well as the channels by which I wanted to receive them.  Maybe I wouldn't want to get new credit card offers in the mail – which I personally find an incredible waste of paper – but I might be okay with receiving them via a more carbon neutral channel like email. 

The bank will certainly grow its direct mail list much faster with this tactic, but they are also more likely to annoy a bunch of loyal customers in the process. I understand the allure of the opt-out approach when you're trying to build your list, but you need to carefully evaluate the negative impact it can have on your brand.

Remember that there is another human being at the other end of your communication.  If you treat them with respect, you can begin building a relationship that will eventually lead them to actively opt into your email campaign communications.  The end result will be a higher quality list, better conversions, and happier customers.

 Opt-Out

Interested in reading more about email marketing best practices? Try giving one of our other blogs a look.  

Posted by: Jason Klein at 10:18 AM
Categories: email marketing, opt-in, tips

Best Practices for Email Opt-in

All email addresses enter your database through some form of opt-in process. Subscriptions can come in from a website, call center, POS display, trade show, sweepstakes offer, etc. Consumers are opting in to receive information from your organization for a specific purpose – to receive your email campaigns or to manage an existing business relationship.

Forrester Research reports three primary methods that can help increase opt-in rates:

  • Make registration easy, intuitive and valuable for the customer.
  • Give the customer control of how much information they want to share with you.
  • Start with basic questions and ask for deeper information gradually.

Additionally, organizations can make the opt-in process more effective for subscribers by doing any or all of the following:

  • Provide an opt-in on every page throughout your website.
  • Include a subscribe link in every email campaign.
  • Explain the benefits of registering (through a value statement or privacy policy).
  • Use standard form field names and limit to ten questions.
  • Ask basic segmentation questions.
  • Avoid asking for sensitive information without cause (such as password reminders, etc.).
  • Use a single email confirmation opt-in strategy.
  • Use viral marketing.

According to Forrester Research, the majority of marketers find that their website registration page proves to be the easiest and most effective way to ask a consumer to opt-in to their email programs. That said, make sure the website opt-in process isn’t convoluted or time consuming for the customer. This will establish a good relationship, and heighten your chances of that new subscriber referring friends or colleagues to your organization.

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:00 PM
Categories: best practices, email marketing, forrester research, opt-in, tips

Why Facebook Advertising is Missing the Point (and Creeping Me Out)

As the popular saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is going to pay for all of this social computing... and whether privacy advocates like it or not, that payment is going to be made using people's data. However, the immense amount of rich data that's available on the social web would be squandered if it was simply used for targeted advertising.

Let's face it. People don't like advertising. They try and avoid it at all costs. They fast forward through commercials on their DVR and use pop-up blockers in their web browsers. The reason Facebook ads aren't living up to their potential is because people haven't opted-in to receive those messages... they don't want to see them!

So when Facebook shoves an ad in front of someone's face that says "35 Year Old Women in San Francisco Needed," they are trying to shoehorn relevant attributes about the visitor into an irrelevant ad. (Not to mention you are going to risk offending the woman by using her age in the ad. No woman wants to be reminded about how old she is, thank you very much.)

What’s even more disturbing are some of the more intrusive applications being created using Facebook Connect. No one wants to see what they thought was a private picture of their family staring back at them from a third party promotional application... whether it be for a video game or the Olympics. It's creepy.

Social Media is More Like Email Than You Realize
Conversely, by approaching social media as an opt-in channel, you are respecting the individuals that you're trying to target and are only communicating with those who are interested in hearing from you. This conforms with the spirit of social media and aligns with email marketing best practices. As any email marketer will tell you, opt-in marketing is significantly more effective than blasting a mass message to a rented list of names that someone claims has similar interests as what you're trying to market.

The social media marketing tools that emerge as effective will respect this and enable marketers to engage with brand influencers in a meaningful and effective way. This effort will be fueled by personal referrals and genuine recommendations that ring true because the people recommending your product or service genuinely care about it. The future of social media marketing has more to learn from email than advertising. It's about respect. Not violating my privacy and creeping me out.

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 6:25 PM
Categories: Facebook, advertising, behavioral targeting, email marketing, opt-in, social media

Email Marketing Tips From MarketingSherpa Email Summit

Last week’s MarketingSherpa Email Summit was packed full of case studies and best practice recommendations from email marketing experts of all kinds, some of which sparked debate amongst the attendees. We have recapped some of the most prominent themes below and invite you to voice your opinion on these topics by posting a comment on StrongView’s Email Marketing Insights blog.

Double Opt-in vs. Single Opt-in
A lot of marketers struggle with whether they should build their email marketing program using a double or single opt-in process. Single opt-in entails the subscriber checking a box to imply consent, whereas double opt-in also sends them an email requesting that they click on a link to confirm their intent to subscribe.

Email marketing purists and deliverability experts tend to favor double opt-in, because it ensures that only the most truly engaged and enthusiastic subscribers become members of your list. While double opt-in limits the size of your list, it theoretically increases the quality, which in turn increases response rates for programs across the board.

Dela Quist, the CEO of London-based email marketing agency Alchemy Worx, took an alternative view during his MarketingSherpa presentation. Assuming that a brand doesn’t send email marketing campaigns to anyone who hasn’t provided their initial permission, Quist said "Double opt-in is one step too far. Email marketing is the only marketing channel that you can unsubscribe from, so let them." He has a point. While double opt-in is wise for specific use cases (e.g. to stop people from seeding your list with bad email addresses), it may not be so wise to put up an extra barrier for subscribers that are truly interested in hearing from you.

Which approach is the right one? Marketers appear to be divided on the issue. One third of marketers use single opt-in, 17% use double opt-in and nearly half use a mix of both.

List Growth
On a related topic, many speakers at this year's event talked about list growth. A lot of great tips were presented, such as offering opt-ins at every touch point and most importantly, giving your subscribers valuable content that they choose to engage with. But whatever strategy you employ, capturing opt-in email addresses is critical. As Jeanne Jennings, Director of Email Product Development for Cahners Business Media stated in one session, "If you can get [website] browsers to opt-in to your list, you can market to them again. Otherwise they leave your site and are gone forever."

Everyone agreed that building your own list is significantly more targeted and effective than buying or renting. However, hybrid approaches can also be effective when executed properly. According to Jennings, 32 percent of marketers using co-registration see performance equal to that of their house list.

Email Frequency
With regard to email frequency, the ever provocative Dela Quist asked, "Why is email the only marketing channel where frequency is a dirty word? Stop beating yourselves up!" In every other marketing channel, frequency is seen as positive because it increases brand impressions. He illustrated the power of these impressions though a video by UK magician Darren Brown on the power of subliminal messaging. Quist proposes keeping inactive subscribers on your list and using the subject line as a branding opportunity. Just because they’re not opening your email marketing campaign doesn’t mean that seeing your brand in their inbox isn’t going to remind them to engage you in another channel.

Dr. Flint McGlaughlin from Marketing Experiments also presented a detailed study showing a direct correlation between email frequency and revenue for one retailer. The more email they sent, the more revenue it generated. If a recipient is engaged with your brand and you are providing them value, there is no such thing as mailing too often. It’s fairly certain that the millions of frenzied bargain hunters that subscribe to shopping sites like Gilt Group, HauteLook and Rue-la-la would be thrilled to get more than one email a day featuring access to exclusive designer sales.

On the opposite side of the issue was a case study with AirTran, which showed that raising frequency beyond three emails a week resulted in a 4X increase in unsubscribes. Such discrepancies highlight the importance of testing to determine the right approach for your business, but the key takeaway seemed to be that as long as your are providing value to your subscriber base, you shouldn’t be afraid to push the frequency envelope.

If you attended the event or have your own perspectives on any of the topics featured at this event, we encourage you to voice your opinions in the comments section.

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 4:21 PM
Categories: MarketingSherpa, MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2010, double opt-in, email list growth, email marketing, mailing frequency, single opt-in