If your inbox is even half as full as mine, you know how much time email eats up every day in your business — time away from the truly important tasks at hand like serving your clients and customers! And, I’ll bet you’re always looking for smart ways to reduce the amount of email you get and make email more efficient. So, I can also bet that you CAN’T STAND IT when random businesses market you by email without your permission! Or when other business owners add you to their list without permission.
Permission based email marketing operates on the principle that you obtain email addresses through legitimate means only.
This means you always gain permission first, through a sign up form or opt-in box (single or double opt-in) of some kind — as long as you clearly communicate they will be receiving emails from you up front — or by registering for something for making a purchase.
Without Gaining Permission, Adding People To Your Email List Makes You A Spammer (ICK!)
If a person doesn’t opt-in on your website, sign up, or specifically ask to be added to your list, you may not add them and market to them by email — it’s against the law! Email marketing is a permission-based marketing strategy. I understand that building your list is very important. In fact, it is the primary focus for many online entrepreneurs and marketers… But you cannot engage in list building practices that are disrespectful to your audience.
Examples Of What Not To Do:
- Meeting someone at a networking event and getting their business card does not give you the right to add them to your email list unless they specifically request to be added
- Telling someone you meet about your email newsletter and discussing it with them does not equal them requesting to be added to your list
- Adding every business contact you have ever made to your email list and justifying it with an unsubscribe link is unacceptable. “Well, they do have the choice to unsubscribe,” is not a smart strategy.
- Offering a free gift, irresistible offer, or ethical bribe on your website is a great way to build your list IF you clearly explain and disclose up front that by opting-in they will also receive your email newsletter and other email marketing — otherwise you are misleading them on purpose!
- Adding a new contact to your email list and calling it “follow up” is a joke. Don’t do it.
- Buying, renting, or borrowing an email list and subscribing the names to your email newsletter is a frowned upon strategy by ethical business owners. Not to mention, it’s rude, it will generate a lot of spam complaints, and you could be violating spam laws! In some cases you can email the list members once to invite them to subscribe to your list — but that’s it. Then it must be left up to them to take the action.
Build Your List The Right Way
The bottom line is that you MUST ALWAYS put your customers, clients, prospects, audience, etc. first — always. That means doing what is best for them, not what is best for you. That means never sending them email blasts, solo blasts, email newsletters, email promotions, or other forms of email marketing without permission.
It also means you must be crystal clear about what will happen next when someone opts-in, signs-up, or subscribes! Communicating how they will hear from you, and if possible how often they will hear from you — BEFORE they sign up. Then reinforce the same messages on your Thank You page.
Email Marketing Best Practices Examples:
- SITUATION:You met Joe at a conference and you want to follow up with him to stay in touch. You know your content and newsletter would be great for Joe.
- PREFERRED SOLUTION: Send Joe a personal email and tell him how much you enjoyed connecting with him. Mention something you spoke about to show him you were actually listening and really do care. Then share your Free gift with him and invite him to visit your website to download it. Mention that if he signs up, he’ll also receive your email newsletter, and that you think he would really benefit from the tips you share in it. Then leave it up to him to take action.
- SITUATION:You have been in business a while and have made a lot of contacts, but are just now starting an email newsletter. You are excited about it and want to share it with everybody.
- PREFERRED SOLUTION: Send each professional contact a personal email to reconnect with them — send a few each day as too many in one day could get you locked in spam jail). Tell them a little about what is new with your business and share your excitement about your new email newsletter and what the benefits will be to subscribers. Then invite them to visit your website to subscribe, and let them know that if they do, you have a free gift for them too! Then leave it up to them to take action. For those you have mailing addresses for, also send them a warm letter inviting them to sign up.
- SITUATION:You recently attended a networking event where you discussed your email newsletter with a few prospects that seemed really interested in it, but you never directly asked them if they were interested in subscribing.
- PREFERRED SOLUTION: Send each person a direct email to follow up with them. Tell them you’re reaching out because they seemed interested in your email newsletter or learning more about it — and that you would love to invite them to visit your website, check out XYZ (a resource or article that would be helpful for them), and while there, see if subscribing may be a good fit for them. Then let them decide whether it is a good fit.
Best Practices Commonalities
Not one best practice approach forces someone to subscribe, or subscribes someone with out express permission. They all first make a personal connection, then make an invitation to see if it is a good fit, then let people be to make their own choice.
By adhering to best practices and always putting your audience first, you avoid getting reported and flagged for spam, you reduce unsubscribes, and you build a higher quality, more responsive email marketing list.
Remember: you may never marketing to anyone by email without permission.
Now what about you? Have you been added to email lists you never subscribed to? Have you been the victim of of the lazy email newsletter follow up? How do you confirm permission from those you meet in person? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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