Thursday, April 20, 2006

e-Mail Newsletter Subscription Policies

Creating a professional and appropriate e-mail newsletter policy:

If I sent you an e-mail, met you at a trade show, or downloaded something off of your web site - should I automatically start receiving your newsletter?

I think not.

Yet this seems to be the policy of many businesses with an e-mail newsletter. It's an easy trap to fall into because there are compelling reasons to do it this way:

  1. You'll have far more subscribers, and grow your subscriber list faster if you simply subscribe everyone you ever have and ever will come in contact with - whether they know it or not.
  2. It's just easier. If you have downloads on your web site then you'll have to create an extra checkbox for the newsletter and ensure that contacts choices are enforced in all future mailings.
Bigger and easier is not always better
At a recent conference I was chatting with a group of professionals who were lamenting about the frequency to which they were subscribed to companies newsletters just because they exchanged cards at a trade show. The general feeling was that a newsletter that arrived unexpectedly was considered both spam and unprofessional - even though they knew the company it was coming from.

It is far better to ask each person if they would like to receive the newsletter. Yes, it is more work, and yes, it requires procedures and policy enforcement - but the arrival of the newsletter in the recipients inbox is welcomed instead of being considered a breach of relationship.

What policies should be in place?

  • Opt-in on your forms:
    First - for every form on your web site - have a check box for the newsletter. Ask your visitors if they would also like to receive your newsletter. The box should be unchecked if you want a true opt-in newsletter.

    Some choose to have the box pre-checked to get more sign-ups, but that is what we call an opt-out newsletter. It's because you have to uncheck the box in order to opt-out of receiving the newsletter. Interesting, not asking people if they want the newsletter at all but still sending it to them is also considered an opt-out newsletter.

  • Opt-in in person:
    Ask people you meet if they would like to receive your newsletter. At a trade show you could have a newsletter sign up sheet for people to write their name and e-mail. If you are collecting business cards for a draw, have the sign up sheet next to the draw box.

    Why not also ASK each person if they would like to be on your newsletter as their card in the box? Always have a compelling reason to sign up for your newsletter, a free gift or some valuable information to maximize subscriptions.

  • Opt-in on the phone:
    Ask each person you speak to if they would like to receive your newsletter and make sure the e-mail is entered in your e-mail marketing system. Give your sales reps an easy way to do so.

  • Manual e-mail entry:
    Every person that manually enters contacts into your marketing database needs to be made aware that only people with the newsletter option 'checked' will receive the newsletter. A decision needs to be made for each contact being entered whether they should be receiving the newsletter or not.

  • e-Mail imports:
    Same goes for mass import. A decision needs to be made for each list imported - or perhaps even each contact on each list, whether or not the contact should be subscribed to receive the newsletter.

  • Sending Policy:
    Only send to those that have expressed their desire to receive your newsletter.
Benefits of having a newsletter policy
  • In future people can choose to unsubscribe from the newsletter, but still remain subscribed to the database to receive other important information like special announcements.

    This is a way that you can actually help retain people on your list (reduce churn). For example, a contact goes to unsubscribe from the newsletter and they see a couple of options - newsletter, special announcements, press releases, etc. And they can manage their preferences without completely unsubscribing. If you do not have a newsletter subscription option they can only either be subscribed or unsubscribed.

  • Giving people the option doesn't risk diminishing the trusting relationship. If someone downloads a whitepaper and then starts receiving the newsletter they might be put off by it.
Permission policies pay off Being professional in your communications and practicing good permission habits pays off in your relationship with prospects and customers alike.

Some areas of privacy are fuzzy and you may get away with lax policies that maximize your subscriptions or save work, but if you do it the way you'd expect to be treated yourself you will gain trust and guarantee you are on the right side of the law.

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If you would like more information on e-mail marketing best practices, e-mail marketing ideas, or services that can help you gain maximum value from your e-mail marketing campaigns, please visit the web site of our Toronto e-mail marketing company.

1 comment:

peterK said...

Great article with lots of interesting stuff. Thanks a lot.