Email Marketing: What am I doing wrong?

June 9, 2011
Email Marketing Permission

Ever get unwanted text messages touting a prize or a get-out-of-debt deal? You didn’t opt-in to this! Don’t they know it’s unwanted, invasive and annoying?

Now let’s turn the focus on you. That email marketing campaign you’re about to pull the trigger on... everyone on our list opted-in to receive it, right? Not sure? Stop right there.

If you are sending email marketing messages and don’t have a 100% opted-in recipient list, you, sir or madam, are just as bad as the annoying text spam you can’t stand.

Permission, Permission, Permission

Permission from your recipients is critical. Sending emails without permission alienates customers and creates a negative association with your brand in the customers’ mind.

There are a ton of great email marketing solutions out there, but our preferred platform, Campaign Monitor, has a great list of guidelines that not only comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, but reflect good email marketing best practices for any email marketing platform.

Who is okay to contact?

  • A person who opt-ed in from a newsletter subscribe form on your website.
  • A person who specifically checked “yes” on an online or offline form indicating they would like you to contact them via email.
  • Someone who gave you their business card and explicitly gave permission to be added to your recipient list.
  • Customers who have made a purchase from you within the last 2 years.

In a nutshell, you need explicit permission from someone if you want to contact them. Period. Any time you are gathering contact information plan on also asking for permission to send them future emails.

Once you have permission, take advantage of it and send on a schedule. The best permission is fresh permission (hence the 2 year limit). Even 2 years is pushing it. Would you remember if you opted-in to a newsletter and you weren’t contacted for 2 years?

Also, it should go without saying but

  • Don’t buy email addresses.
  • Don’t go through a company or old college directory and write down everyone’s email address.
  • Don’t go through your Outlook Contacts and start sending marketing messages to every business contact you’ve ever worked with.

They didn’t give explicit permission. Don’t do it.

But I have a list of people I want to contact. What should I do?

The best course of action is to always get permission at the same time you get the email address, but what if that ship has sailed?

Send one email - one! - asking people if they would like to opt-in to receive future emails from you. Build your permission-based list from the responses to that message and never contact anyone without permission again.

Not everyone will opt-in. That’s okay. Grow your list and the following that you have. Publish and promote compelling content and future opt-ins will follow.


See examples of our work on Campaign Monitor at our facebook page.