Article first published September 2007, updated May 2019
When you make a business call, you don’t just launch right into the conversation without introducing yourself, right? Instead, you say something like, “Hi, I’m Mathew. We met at the Widget Summit, and you asked me to give you a call.” You should do just the same with your email newsletters.
That introduction is called a permission reminder.
What are permission reminders?
A permission reminder is simply a short statement in your email (usually placed in the footer) that reminds your subscriber how you got their email address.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Over at Clickz, Stefan Pollard has a great article titled “There’s No Excuse for Trust Abuse“ about doing permission reminders the right way. His point is that a vague permission message—“Your address was subscribed to our list”—can be even worse than none at all. It makes you seem lazy and possibly suspicious. Your message needs to be as specific as possible to help people remember how they actually did ask to receive your emails. This is particularly important for lists that grow regularly, as new subscribers have no background of newsletters to remember you by.
A great technique to make your reminder messages more specific is to keep track of exactly where addresses came from, and refer directly to that.
For example: ”You are receiving this email because you gave us your address at the Widget Summit in September.”
“You are receiving this email because you subscribed on our website to the Widget Newsletter.”
With some smart use of custom fields, you can personalize that message for each subscriber. The first step is to keep track of where people came from. You can do this by creating a custom field for your list called “source” or something similar. You’ll then need to fill in a value for “source” for each person. If you’re importing a file of new subscribers after a tradeshow, use “gave us your address at the Widget Summit in September” as the source column for each subscriber record, for instance.
For your online subscribe forms, make sure you have a hidden “source” field prefilled with “subscribed on our website” as the value, so that each time someone signs up using the form, the right value is set.
Now, in your campaigns, you can just insert something like this:
You are receiving this email because you [source]. If you are no longer interested, you can <unsubscribe>unsubscribe instantly</unsubscribe>.
It’s that easy. Now your permission reminder messages are much more specific, and they will be much more effective in showing people you are legitimate and serious about having their permission. You can also use that same source information to start segmenting your list and offering different things to different groups.
Even though permission is not enough anymore, an accurate, specific permission reminder will go a long way toward avoiding spam complaints and helping build up trust with your subscribers.
Why do emails have double opt-in?
Double opt-in is the process that requires your subscriber to enter their email address in a signup form and then confirm their interest in receiving emails from you in a separate email.
Source: Really Good Emails
One reason for this is that it’s a legal requirement in many countries if you want to send promotional emails to your subscribers.
Another reason double opt-in is advisable is that it helps you build a higher quality email list. It also gives you a platform and opportunity to send a permission reminder message.
So, whether you’re using double opt-in for legal purposes or simply to build a quality email list, it’s definitely worth the extra effort.
Using permission reminders to build trust
One of the biggest uses of permission reminders, apart from a making you CAN-SPAM compliant, is to help build trust with your subscribers. How exactly do you do that? Consider the following:
The first way to build trust with your subscription confirmation is to personalize it, and the best way to do this is to be specific about how you received the recipient’s email address. If they bought something from you, include it in the email. The key here is to be as specific as you can. This will put your subscriber at ease, as it will show them that you’re truly who you say you are.
There’s nothing that builds trust more in a relationship than transparency. The same goes for your email marketing. When you collect email addresses, be open and transparent about how you’ll store and use your customers’ data.
You can easily do this in your subscription confirmation email. Instead of sending the generic “Thank you for subscribing” emails, use your subscription confirmation email to calm any fears that your customers may have about giving out their information. One of the most common fears, thanks to the recent rise in data breaches, is the safety of personal details.
Another way you can use your permission reminder email is to let the reader know that you won’t bombard them with unnecessary emails. Inform your subscribers how often you will be emailing them and what the emails will be about.
When a person signs up for a newsletter, one of their biggest worries is that you’ll fill up their inbox with promotions every day. Ease this fear quickly and let them know that you respect their privacy and time. This will definitely earn you their trust.
Give your subscribers the option to unsubscribe
While it may seem counterintuitive, giving your subscribers the option to unsubscribe is actually a trust builder because it puts them in control of what they receive in their inbox.
Besides giving your reader control over their inbox, the unsubscribe option also protects you from being marked as spam.
As insignificant as a subscription confirmation may seem, it serves a great purpose in your email marketing plan. It helps you build trust with both your customers and email clients.
Understanding the technical and legal aspects of email marketing is essential for every marketer. To help you build your knowledge in this rather complicated area, we’ve compiled a number of resources to help you navigate your way to success. One such resource that’s well worth the read is our article on how GDPR affects email marketing.