Return to: GROK Dot Com 5/15/2001

Opting Options Dos and Don'ts

Permission Marketing is the current jargon for the politically correct way to manage your customer relationships: you make sure you have consent before you email anything to anybody. There's opt-in and opt-out, double opt-in and double opt-out. It's really a bit of a double bind, with some folks saying unsolicited email is just another way to inform people of all their options, while some folks receiving the unsolicited email are chanting "invasion of privacy." Don't worry (or maybe you should) - lots of lawyers have their teeth firmly clamped to the issue as you read!

I'm going to assume you are not one of those spamming Plutonians, and you really do have your customers' best interests at heart. You want to inform them, and you want to know they want to be informed. Are we on the same page? So here's how to ďwalk like a GrokianĒ when it comes to Opting Options.

Any form of opting-in, whether itís for a newsletter, future mailings, membership, registration or simply a request for information, involves an exchange of value. You get something from your prospect that you want (usually contact and profile information) and your prospect gets something from you that they want. It's a very simple equation. It's only when folks start feeling youíre taking advantage of them that things take a turn for the worse. So do your Permission Marketing with sensitivity, sense and style.

DO make the opt-in procedure simple.

DO swear upon your favorite relative's sainted soul that you won't share this information in any way without the customer's permission. If thatís not your policy, then:

DO make it crystal clear, if you are in the practice of passing along customer information, that this is what you do, make clear the details of what, when and with whom, and give the customer an out if she wants her information to remain private. Then honor that as if your survival depends on it (it does!).

DON'T ask for any more information than you absolutely need, unless there is some real value to your customer in providing it.

DO allow the customer to agree to different mailings from you, or not. If she agrees to receive a newsletter, that's the only thing she is expecting from you. You might have it in mind to send her lots of other stuff too, but get her permission before you go flooding her with it. Fail to do this and you are likely to find your customer opting-out.

DO provide immediate visual confirmation that the opt-in procedure (or opt-out procedure) was completed successfully.

DO follow up with a e-mail confirmation that includes:

your appreciation

the information the customer provided

a reminder of what the customer has subscribed to or requested

your contact information

how to unsubscribe if the confirmation was sent in error

DON'T opt for double opt-ins. A double opt-in means your customer signs up for something on your site, then receives some form of communication from you that requires her essentially to sign up again: "Reply to this e-mail to confirm your registration." Some people do it, but it in this Martianís opinion it is completely unnecessary and only confuses the situation. When was the last time you placed the items you wanted to buy at the cash register and heard the cashier ask, "Are you sure you want to buy these things?" You don't have to make folks jump through an extra hoop for a sale thatís already closed! If the communication was sent in error, your unsubscribe information will be sufficient.

HOWEVER, if you are in the business of selling lists, you do need a double opt-in. Without it, you sacrifice quality and risk ticking off your customers. You must be sure your customers agree to let you share their information with others.

DO include unsubscribe information in every communication you send.

HOWEVER, this information does not have to be a direct hyperlink, nor should you feel you need to make it too easy to opt-out. It's a fine line you walk here - you don't want folks opting-out on a whim, just because they got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. By the same token, you must make it possible for them to say "Thanks, but no thanks." One or two extra steps to the opt-out procedure are acceptable.

DO test, double-test and triple-test your opt-in and opt-out procedures to be certain they work properly. Folks get grumpy when they opt-in to something and never get value for having done it. And they get really grumpy when they opt-out, but keep getting your mailings. Either way, you are abusing your customers, and they aren't going to take it kindly.

DO these things effectively and in good faith and you'll have your customers feeling happy about having opted-in. And satisfied customers are far more likely to opt-in to a purchase!

DON'T manage your Permission Marketing scrupulously, and you can kiss not only your existing customers, but also your potential customers goodbye.

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Return to: GROK Dot Com 5/15/2001

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