Opt-in email marketing is the most powerful marketing tool that ever existed. It has a 40 to 1 ROI, it spurs consumers to spend 83% more money when shopping, and 66% of people make buying decisions based on the email marketing messages they receive.(source: 9 little known fact that make email more important than Facebook and Twitter)
However, this power is completely thrown out the door when an email sender doesn’t get permission from the recipient via an opt-in. Without an opt-in, your email is completely worthless, its digital garbage, its SPAM.
Even if you know the recipient personally, sending them a marketing message without getting explicit permission with an opt-in is a waste of your time and theirs. Let me explain why.
What is Opt-In Email Marketing?
The term “opt-in” is just another way of describing the process of giving someone an option. With respect to email marketing, an opt-in is giving a person an option to say yes or no to receive marketing messages from you.
As a result, when you use opt-in email marketing, you are only sending marketing emails to people who explicitly decided that they want to keep in touch with you. Not only do they want to keep in touch with you, they’re also signaling that they like you.
This is the most powerful social action that exist today. More powerful that a follower of a fan on Twitter or Facebook because you are getting explicit permission to connect with this person in a private inbox that they own.
Violating the Opt-in Honor System
Opt-in email marketing is as much of an honor system as it’s a legal requirement. Most people know all about the CAN-SPAM Act. In summary, it basically enforces two legal requirements:
1. It explicitly prohibits “harvesting” – purchasing or trading email list obtained from public data or by guessing
2. It requires that all emails sent in bulk must be obtained using opt-in methods
Even with the government stepping in to create these rules, it’s extremely difficult to enforce. Therefore, businesses are expected to use the honor system to self-police themselves.
Unfortunately, many businesses have put profits above ethics in the case of email marketing.
Data collected from several research firms suggest that more than 65% of “legit” email marketers admit to regularly violating the CAN-SPAM Act by purchasing “harvested” email list because they’re dissatisfied with the size of their opt-in email list.
3 Reasons Why Harvesting is Bad for Business
When you harvest emails from people you losely know (either using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc or through LinkedIn or Facebook) or by scraping the web (manually or through a third-party) you are wasting your time if the next step is not requesting an opt-in. There are 3 main reasons for this:
1. Your email address will get banned
It only takes a few people to mark your email messages as SPAM before email service providers start putting ALL your future messages directly into the spam folder. When I say ALL I mean ALL. Even for people who didn’t mark you as SPAM this will happen unless they put you on a special white-list (which is rare).
You may also get booted from your email service provider. Almost all email service providers have specific opt-in rules that allow them to fire you as a customer (and so does Nichevertising).
2. People Will Think You’re Unethical
There’s nothing worse than a desperate company willing to do anything to make a buck. The first thing people will think about you when they start receiving unsolicited marketing newsletters from you is that you are an unethical SPAMMER. Do you think anyone want’s to do business with someone like this?
3. You lose the Benefits of Email Marketing
Remember those fantastic stats about email marketing I listed at the top of this article? Forgetaboutit!
Those stats are only relevant when someone opts-in to your email list.
Bottom Line: Opt-In is Critical to make Email Marketing Work
There is no question that running a well organized email marketing campaign is one of the most efficient ways to increase the revenue of your business. That is why there is such a huge temptation to build an email list by any means necessary. This is because people believe that bigger is better.
However, the reality is that size doesn’t matter. At least it doesn’t matter as much as most people think. Opt-in permission matters, and it matters more than most people think.
It will always be better to have a small email list of 100 fans who like you enough to opt-in, then to have 10,000 people in your email list who think you’re an unethical spammer.