TBT: Obtaining Permission

You’d think that by now the advice below goes without saying. But if your inbox is anything like mine, you can confirm that a lot of marketers still don’t understand permission. Originally posted in two parts on November 22 and 25, 2010.

Part 1

With apologies to positive thinking devotees, today’s blog is the first in a series in which I plan to focus on what not to do when it comes to interactive marketing.

Sure, do’s are important. But unlike the other mass media, online is unforgiving when it comes to don’ts. TVs, radios, newspapers and mailboxes don’t cut you off if you happen to commit a gaffe. Email servers do.

So let’s begin with what is possibly the biggest don’t: DON’T send email blasts to people without first obtaining their permission.

Otherwise, bad things will happen. Here they are, from bad to worst:

Bad: Recipients will ignore you.

Worse: Recipients will consign emails from you to a junk folder. Thereafter, they will not even see what you send, no matter how worthy or relevant it may be, and no matter how clever you make the subject line.

Worst: Recipients will complain through appropriate online channels, and email servers will block you. For that matter, servers may detect and block you on their own. The industry term for “blocking” is blacklisting. Being blacklisted is not good. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a marketer to get off of a blacklist.

Stay tuned for more a more positive post on how to obtain (and maintain) permission to send marketing emails.

Part 2

As a follow-up to my post earlier this week on the importance of getting permission from people before sending email blasts (and this extends to clients, prospects, etc.) here’s how to obtain (and maintain) permission to send marketing emails:

  1. Invite people to sign up. Create a web page where people can opt in to receive emails from you. To direct them to the page, you can use online banners, direct mail and advertising in traditional media. You can also send a one-time email to people with whom you have a prior relationship.
  2. When people opt in, immediately send an email asking them to confirm the opt-in. But, also be sure to offer them an opportunity to opt out. This double opt-in may feel a little repugnant to die-hard marketers, because it seems like the antithesis of selling—which it is. In face-to-face selling, the moment the prospect says, “I’ll buy,” the last thing you should do is say, “Wait. Not so fast. Take a moment to reflect. Are you absolutely certain you want to buy?” But when someone opts on to an email list, that’s exactly what you should do. It gives you two benefits. First, if a server happens to blacklist you, you can show that you bend over backwards to be responsible, which goes a long way toward lifting the ban. Second, it reminds people that they signed up to hear from you, and increases the odds that they’ll recognize and pay attention to what you send.
  3. Every email blast should have an easy-to-find link for people to click should they wish to receive some communications from you but not others, or even opt out of hearing from you altogether. Again, this smacks of unselling. But, it helps keep you off of the dreaded blacklist. It’s also good for customer relations. It shows you’re up-front and easy to work with.
  4. If—perish the thought—someone opts off your list, honor that request right away. Send an acknowledgement. If your system needs a few days to complete the name removal process and there is danger of receiving more from you in the meantime, say so in the confirmation.
  5. Send good, relevant stuff. This has more to do with common-sense marketing than with staying off a blacklist. Your subscribers will quickly discern whether they can expect value from your emails, or time-wasting fluff. If you want them to pay attention when they hear from you, send only what is likely to be worth their while.

When it comes to interactive marketing, knowing what to do matters. But so does knowing what not to do. A wise marketer keeps up on both.

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