We’ve all been there: Sitting down to your desk, turning on your computer – only to find your inbox flooded with offers that you never signed up for. If you’re like most people, you just delete these and don’t think about it. However, some people go the extra step to flag unwanted messages as spam to make sure they don’t get your message again. This is why an opt-in email campaign is so vital to ensuring that your emails are reaching the right contacts, the ones who expect to see your messages – and not those who could potentially harm your reputation.
If you send campaigns to people who have not opted in, you have the potential to reach more prospects (by email blasts, etc.), but you also run the risk of getting yourself flagged. Whether it’s a drip campaign or a one-off blast, if you keep sending to unengaged, random recipients (whether or not you’ve had contact with them), you’re asking for a spam complaint. All it takes is one little click on the recipient’s part to cause you a great deal of trouble.
What’s an opt-in campaign?
An opt-in campaign is one in which you offer something (e.g., a newsletter) to a reader, and that reader must check a box to get that something; that is, they have to opt in. (Pre-checked opt-in boxes do NOT count at all, as they do not represent or indicate any degree of interest from the person. And in some countries, they are illegal.) Opt-in campaigns are advantageous for many reasons, the most obvious being that your recipients are real, alive, and want to receive your emails, which alleviates the risk of spam traps and complaints. With an opted-in and engaged sender base, your recipients don’t miss important offers, correspondence, and announcements, so they stay happy and engage more. By choosing to opt-in, your recipients are signifying that they are interested in your content, cause, or company, which makes it highly unlikely that they’ll feel the urge to report your emails.
By choosing to opt in, your recipients are allowing you to send them information, and demonstrating their trust in you. At the very least, they know your messages aren’t spam. This helps your reputation, and a good reputation is the key to getting your emails delivered. If you send to a lot of non-opted-in recipients, your odds of getting complaints or being blocked go up sharply. When this happens, the receiving email server sees that you’re getting a bad reputation from complaints and blocks, and your email is more likely to get filtered or rejected. Over time, this creates more and more problems for you and your sender reputation. In the worst-case scenario, your sending addresses could be blacklisted – which means you would be unable to send marketing emails at all!
More options: double and confirmed opt-in campaigns
A “double opt-in” is one in which someone opts in, and the marketer then sends a confirmation email that requires yet another opt-in. (“Thank you for subscribing…please click here to…”) Double opt-ins are harder to get, but they are also proof of greater interest, which usually means a greater likelihood of closing the sale.
The “confirmed opt-in” goes one step further, giving the email recipient an explicit, obvious chance to unsubscribe at this point (beyond the usual legally required unsubscribe link often found in an email’s footer). This prospect not only opted in, but – pointedly – did not unsubscribe when offered the chance. This person is the most likely of all to want to receive your messaging.
The benefits of an opt-in campaign
Opt-in campaigns are an email marketing and deliverability best practice, which puts you ahead of the game. Following best practices is the key to success and can help prevent headaches down the road. These types of campaigns also require the recipient to give you the highest level of permissions (such as whitelisting), so troubleshooting any issues is much simpler when the lines of communication are open and unhindered by ISPs and other filters.
Many of us receive hundreds of emails a day. The last thing we want to do, the last thing we’ll spend our precious time on, is to sort through incoming emails from unknown senders. The biggest risk of not using an opt-in campaign is related to this. If the recipient has not opted in, they have no incentive to read, let alone open your email. They will be more inclined to report you as spam, and in this modern age, that’s potentially disastrous. Being tagged as spam once won’t hurt you, but those tags can add up quickly if you’re mailing to unengaged, non-opted-in recipients. And soon as you’re blacklisted, it’s game over; you have to begin your email marketing program all over again, with a clean (but cold) IP address. For some businesses, such a forced lull in marketing would mean game, set, and series over.
Although they’re slow to get rolling, opt-in campaigns save a lot of time and hassle in the long run. By validating demand for your email messages, you’re ensuring maximum deliverability and engagement, while decreasing the risks of rejection and a bottoming email reputation. An active, opted-in recipient base will provide you with much more success than a send-and-pray email blast to unknown addresses.
A final note: preference centers
The ultimate in opt-in campaigns is the preference center. Here you allow the person opting in to choose which of your communiqués they wish to receive, and on what schedule. This gives them fine-grained control over what you send them, and it’s another indication that they truly do want to hear from you.
Most companies using preference centers have multiple offerings, often in multiple channels. If you send only one email newsletter a week, you don’t need a preference center. But if you have even two choices (send X daily OR send a weekly digest), then a preference center is just one more way to service your readership – and to narrow your email recipients to those who are most likely to buy. After all, it is quality, not quantity, that wins in the end.