Permission starts at home(page)

By Mathew Patterson on 21st February 2007

We talk a lot about permission here at Campaign Monitor. All of us as designers focus on making sure our emails have clear unsubscribe links and the required company details.

Today we are going back to the start of the process, and looking at the point of subscription. Your sign up page on your website (or even offline) can answer a lot of questions in the minds of potential subscribers.

  • Why should I sign up for this email?
  • How often will I get emails from you?
  • When will I get the first one?
  • How can I get off the list?
  • What else will you do with my email address?
  • What will it look like?

It's all about setting expectations, so that when that first email arrives, your subscriber is happy, not surprised or angry.

Sometimes you can cover a lot of this with a simple paragraph, like:

"Xylophone Zygote is a monthly email of tips and hints for increasing your score at Scrabble. You can read a sample issue online. We will never sell or give away your email address"

Obviously, you won't always have room for all those things, and often it won't make sense to have them all. If your list is for members of your community, you may already have a lot of trust built up.

Even then, you could certainly include all this information in your welcome email.

At the other extreme, your list might be based on entries to a competition on TV, or people at a tradeshow signing up at your booth. Those people are far more likely to forget what they signed up for, and mark it incorrectly as spam. The more detail they absorb about what to expect, the better their reaction will be.

The basic rule is the shorter the relationship you have with that person, the more information you need to provide. We'd love to hear your thoughts: What influences your decision to sign up for an email newsletter?


  • Paul
    22nd February

    Nice, glad to know that you guys acknowledge that recipients will use the REPORT SPAM button as an alternative for DELETE. I try hard to get a signature from clients that confirms they have authority to send to a list. When I see the SPAM number grow on the snapshot I start to sweat bullets as I know that I have no real idea about the list, and could lose my CM account. We’ll keep trying to make sure we have as much permission as possible though. Cheers.

  • Jean
    22nd February

    for me, the basic decision making expectation to subscribe to a newsletter or not, is the hope to get valueable information I couldn’t get another way at all or less comfortable

  • Michiel
    22nd February

    I hardly ever subscribe to newsletters anymore. I prefer to grab a RSS feed and it to my reader.

  • Chris Moritz
    22nd February

    Right on.  I’m passing this on to the rest of my team.

  • Darren Nicholls
    22nd February

    For me it’s about the content, a, I going to get something worthwhile; be it industry news or special offers from clothing / holiday etc companies. Sometimes I just subscribe to newsletters just to be nosy or to get content and design inspiration.

  • Danny Foo
    24th February

    I think I’ve signed up newsletters for different reasons. Because:

    1. I rarely visit the website and I never knew they added RSS later on.
    2. I’d like to keep track of my competitors news.
    3. I’m expecting a bargain by signing up for their newsletter.
    4. I’d be receiving added lessons and etc.

    So in summary, I’d sign up for a newsletter because I’d like to keep track of information discreetly via email since I open it very often every day. :)

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