Your brand is important. As marketing guru Seth Godin explains, “a brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Given this definition, the consequences of damaging your brand—even when acting with the best of intentions—can be severe. This is especially true when it comes to your email marketing efforts.
After all, a primary point of contact between you and your customers is email. That’s why it’s important to utilize opt-in when building your distribution lists. You need to make sure that those on your email list truly want to hear from you.
So, what exactly is opt-in, and why is it so important to your brand? We’ll go over all the need-to-know information below.
What is email marketing opt-in?
If a subscriber opts in, it means they give you explicit permission to send them an email, newsletter, advertising, or another type of digital communication.
The single opt-in is what most people are familiar with. That’s when a contact fills out and submits an online form which gives you permission to send them messages.
The double opt-in, however, is recommended. After a subscriber requests to be added to your list, you send a confirmation email with a link to verify that it’s okay to contact them. In this fashion, the subscriber opts in twice.
As we’ll discuss below, it’s critical to make sure you receive permission from every single contact and keep it stored in your records.
Why you need an opt-in for your email marketing
There are three basic reasons you need all new subscribers to explicitly choose to receive emails from you. The first has to do with building the most effective lists possible while the second and third are concerned with making sure your lists don’t violate usage standards or laws.
1. Build effective lists
Sure, you want your email lists to be growing on a regular basis. But you also want to avoid alienating potential customers and giving a bad impression of your brand. If you’re not using opt-in to ensure subscribers want to hear from you, then many people on your list won’t engage with what you have to say.
If you want to build a highly engaged list with soaring open rates and healthy click-through rates, then you need to make sure everyone on your list not only wants to be there but chose to be.
2. Avoid blacklisting
The second reason to use opt-ins is to avoid being added to a domain name system blacklist (DNSBL) due to overly aggressive list building. Blacklist databases are queried in real-time by email servers to obtain an evaluation of incoming emails to determine if they’ll be accepted based on their IP addresses.
A high rate of spam complaints from users is the quickest way to find yourself on one of the many existing blacklists. The process to be removed is labor intensive—each DNSBL will have its own procedures to do this—and the best policy is not to be added to begin with.
In addition, if you’re using one of the many email marketing and distribution services, they can’t afford to have their IP addresses blacklisted because of emails you’re sending out. Therefore, they’ll be monitoring if your bounce rates – that is, the number of emails that come back as undeliverable – are too high or if they see too many complaints.
If this happens, they’ll block you from using their services before your emails result in them being blacklisted.
3. Comply with CAN-SPAM and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws
Finally, you should also be aware of existing United States and European Union laws which deal with unsolicited – that is, spam – emails.
In the U.S., the CAN-SPAM Act provides compliance guidelines for businesses who use email and digital marketing. Much of this has to do with avoiding deceptive advertising practices. For example, don’t use misleading subject lines or inaccurate header info.
At the same time, make sure to clearly identify the message as an ad and include your physical address as well as clearly stated opt-out options.
While opt-ins are not required by CAN-SPAM, their use is recommended to avoid any complaints about or investigations of your email marketing practices. The penalties can be severe, up to $41,484 per email not in compliance.
In the E.U., GDPR laws regulate how businesses can interact with individuals online. Regarding email marketing, the guidelines for gaining consent from a new contact are more stringent than in the U.S. and require clear affirmative action from the individual. That is, unlike the U.S., you must use opt-in.
Email and digital marketing in Canada is governed by the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Much like GDPR, you must have specific opt-in to send an email to anyone in Canada.
Given how business is more global than ever before, it’s easier to use opt-in for all your list building efforts.
When you’re first building your distribution lists, of course, you want to reach as many people as quickly as possible. After all, how can people buy your products or services if they don’t know about them?
There are, however, no shortcuts worth the damage they can do. Again, as Seth Godin writes, “If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
Build your brand—and your email marketing lists—the right way using opt-in. After all, your brand’s value will increase when you avoid alienating potential customers, stay off blacklists, and follow all anti-spam regulations and laws.