Permission-Based Email Marketing Best Practices

Digital marketing is a constantly shifting landscape, and many businesses are exploring new trends like social media influencer partnerships, chat bots, and digital guerilla marketing as part of their campaign. However, they still stick with a few mainstays of the digital marketing sphere, the most important of which is email marketing. Despite all of the advancements in social media and content marketing in general, email still provides some of the best return on investment of any marketing channel, typically generating about $38 for every $1 spent.

Chasing new marketing trends can be fun and exciting and sometimes rewarding, but investing in a solid email marketing campaign offers a much better long-term return on your marketing investment. One of the most important elements of modern email marketing is permission-based email marketing, the foundation of any successful email marketing campaign.

What Is Permission-Based Email Marketing?

Back in the early days of the internet and the first waves of email marketing, marketers were fairly unscrupulous when it came to adding new email addresses to their mailing lists. Many purchased lists of email addresses and others used various tools to send unsolicited emails to early internet users. This led to countless frustrations for users and tarnished the reputations of brands that essentially started badgering potential customers or even random recipients with marketing emails. The problem escalated to the point of prompting new legislation in the United States and Canada, the CAN-SPAM Act and Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, respectively.

Permission-based email marketing is exactly what it sounds like: the marketer or brand asks a potential email recipient for permission to email that person before sending anything. Purchasing email address lists or otherwise attempting to pad your mailing list without asking recipients’ position can completely devastate your email marketing ambitions.

Put yourself in your target customer’s position: would you want to open and read an email from an unknown sender? If a business with which you had never previously interacted suddenly emailed you, would you open it and see what it said or immediately delete it? Purchased email lists harm your reputation and may even lead to legal penalties in some cases. Purchasing email lists also leads to higher unsubscribe rates and spam reports. If too many people start flagging your emails as spam, they’ll eventually start going directly into the spam folders of recipients’ inboxes.

Tips for Solid Permission-Based Email Marketing

The important piece of an email marketing campaign is simply asking first. While this sounds straightforward, the trick is contacting them to be able to ask for their email. Instead of trying to snatch up as many email addresses as you can however you can, strive to encourage leads to want to join your email list of their own volition. You can accomplish this in several ways:

  • Offer email opt-in directly at your physical store. If your business owns an office, a brick-and-mortar retail location, or any type of physical building where customers and clients visit your brand, this is a great place to offer a written sign-up sheet for them to receive the latest news and promotional materials from your brand. Email opt-in sheets are perfect for grand opening events, community events, job fairs, and just everyday placement next to the checkout register.
  • Create a digital opt-in on your website. Many modern websites allow users to create login credentials and manage unique accounts on their websites. Account creation is the ideal time to ask a potential customer to sign up for your emailing list, but you can also simply embed a signup widget somewhere on your website – just make it easy to find.
  • Ask for signups on your social media profiles. Add opt-in links to your profile bios and make sure your followers know how to find your content. You can also increase your social media profiles’ effectiveness by including links back to your profiles in your marketing emails, allowing recipients to follow you on various channels. Social media profiles can also be great places to show your followers the benefits of becoming email subscribers or to tell the stories of subscribers benefitting from your emails.
  • Offer discounts and promotions to new mailing list members. Everyone has seen at least one website offering a discount or promotion to anyone who signs up to the mailing list. Consider offering a coupon or similar offer to new mailing list members to entice them into seeing what you have to offer.
  • Don’t be boring. Give your customers a reason to open the email and increase your click-through rates. Snappy or witty content, a personalized quiz (that you can also mine data from), or “guess what percentage you’ll get off” coupon are all incentives to not just be added to the list but to stay on it.
  • Develop a referral program. Offer the current members of your email list some kind of incentive to have their friends and relatives sign up, too. For example, you could develop a piece of premium content and only allow access to the content to subscribers who convince five or ten more people to sign up or require them to send a referral link to some of their email contacts.

Promotional opt-ins are especially effective. A lead may be somewhat interested in your brand and the possibility of taking advantage of a valuable promotional offer could be the deciding factor for that lead to sign up for your emailing list and convert.

Once you grow your following, consider adding some kind of ticker or counter that displays the number of sign-ups to your emailing list. This somewhat plays on the “fear of missing out,” and curious customers will be eager to see why so many people are signing up for your emails.

Ultimately, permission-based email marketing helps you grow your email list organically the right way, ensuring the members of your mailing list actually want to be on the list. This not only prevents high unsubscribe rates, but also helps build trust among potential leads, more often than not leading to increased conversions and sales. Part of the reason email marketing is so successful is because modern marketers who take the time to develop responsible permission-based emailing lists cultivate trust with their audiences.

Too many companies in the early days essentially trapped email recipients with spam and unwanted marketed materials, making it a chore for those users to ultimately escape. This type of aggressive marketing is not sustainable or responsible. Instead, modern marketing professionals should aim to encourage potential subscribers to recognize their brands’ worth with valuable content and meaningful interactions with permission-based email marketing systems.