Email Opt-out: more than being polite

I had an interesting conversation with the head of a company that has an email campaign running. Its been running for a while. The conversation moved to opt-outs and how they were getting them (as most programs do). He casually mentioned that maybe he could move these folks back into the active list.

My reaction was initially amused silence. Then when I realized he was serious, I told him he can’t do that. He was puzzled. He said that he knows it might not be polite, but they have new things to offer them and he’d like to get them back on the active list. He wasn’t trying to be sneaky and really seemed unaware of CAN-SPAM laws.

After explaining the high-level implications of what he was contemplating, we discussed the basics of the law and what he had to do to be compliant. We covered the range from stating that the email is an ad, honesty in the subject, to (continued) easy opt-out with a physical address as well as some of the elements of a commercial message versus a transaction message. At the end, he said “So, we’re not just being polite?”

The thing is he is smart (I mean really smart) and he wanted to treat his customers / prospects the right way. His intended actions were well motivated, yet still risked crippling fines.

Email service providers (ESPs) such as mailchimp, constant contact  or marketing automation platforms like Pardot, Marketo   hubspot  or Autopilothq all have the ability to keep you on the right side of the law. But you need to abide by the rules the systems have in place. These are designed with good marketing and compliance in mind.

One of the ways to mitigate email opt-outs is to provide users with options. Too many companies provide a single opt-out link that provides an “all or nothing” decision for the users. A better program is to create email categories to which individuals can subscribe or unsubscribe, leaving the company with an option to continue their engagement. Even if you don’t have distinct content categories, you can create frequency categories – daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly options are easy alternative no contact at all.

As you develop email programs, the best way to combat opt-outs is to develop segments in order to provide people with relevant content to keep them engaged and increase the value of the communication.  By segmenting content and allowing people to subscribe to the different elements you can minimize the opt-outs. This provides value to both the users and the company.

As part of a well developed email program with segments good marketers use content cross-promotion to increase engagement. As people find more content they like, you can increase the value and decrease the likelihood of complete opt-outs. The key to the successful programs is to provide people with value.

More often now we see the engagement with users cross-channels. Email and social communication can re-enforce each other. By combining editorial calendars for email and social, the users can engage the companies as best suits them. This can mitigates opt-outs, but also gives people another alternative to disengaging entirely from the brand. Email marketing should not be treated in isolation. Combining with social engagements will help maintain an ongoing dialogue with customers and prospects.




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