A friend emailed me in a justifiably irate mood last week. She was a bit miffed that shortly after purchasing something from an online supplier she received an email from them that said, in part:
‘… I’ve taken the liberty of subscribing you to our list for email updates when a new blog post is published.”
It went on to say (in a jaunty tone) ‘feel free to let us know if you don’t want to receive our emails and we’ll remove you from our list.’
I felt my friend’s pain because I’d recently received a similar communication from a business I’d purchased from and had pretty much the same reaction: What the…?
Then I winced as I remembered times in the past where I had done the same thing – assumed I was doing someone a favour in subscribing them to my business blog or newsletter and cheerily assuring them they need only email me back if they didn’t want to be on my list(s).
Errr, I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear the thought of having to email someone – especially someone I may have a working relationship with – and asking them to unsubscribe me from their email list. It’s hard to do it without sounding rude so it just doesn’t happen. And I suspect you, dear reader, are the same as me.
This means every time an email newsletter or blog post which we did not subscribe to (but feel we can’t unsubscribe from!) drops into our inbox we take a moment to seethe. And then we hit the delete button.
Which is why we all need to get a lot smarter about the way we ask permission from people. Because assuming we have permission hurts both parties in the end: our business AND our customers/clients.
It’s very tempting to assume that someone buying something from us or using our services has a huge interest in everything we have to say. But in many cases it’s simply not the case. And those who have zero interest should not be sacrificed at the altar of those who are interested.
So here are three quick tips for asking permission properly:
1. Use proper email software
When you add someone to your email list, proper mass-email software like MailChimp, iContact and Campaign Monitor give you the ability to ask that person if they actually want to be on your list (they need to click a link). So use proper email software and make use of this excellent feature!
The best thing about this feature is that if they don’t want to be on your list and don’t click the link, no one is the wiser so they don’t have to worry they have offended you.
2. Put a sign-up form on your website and make things UBER transparent
This is the ultimate in asking (and getting) permission – someone giving you their email address of their own accord on your website. So be very respectful of this. Make sure you tell the person exactly what they are signing up for … and then deliver exactly that to them.
Seth Godin, who wrote the book on permission marketing (of which email marketing is the cornerstone), says:
“When I launched [the] book that coined this phrase 9 years ago, I offered people a third of the book for free in exchange for an email address. And I never, ever did anything with those addresses again. [Because] That wasn’t part of the deal. No follow ups, no new products. A deal’s a deal.”
If you invite people to join your newsletter list and promise to deliver them one email newsletter each month – do exactly that. Don’t also send them emails advertising your new product or service. They didn’t ask for that and they didn’t sign up for that.
If you want those people to receive the new product communications – then you must ask them to opt in again … to a different list.
3. Don’t be afraid to put people off
We’ve been taught in recent years that our business email list is GOLD. Gold! And we should be doing everything in our power to get as many people as possible on it. But the fact is, we don’t want just anyone on our email lists – we want the right people. The people who will actually open the email and read it instead of just hitting delete the second it hits their inbox. The people who will engage with us once they’ve read it.
Which is why on my personal blog I make it super clear that my monthly email list is for people wanting to live a life less frantic (see image to the right). If that’s not you … why would I want my emails landing in your inbox?!
So be brave enough to declare exactly who you want to sign up for your email list. This will make it much easier for you to ask for permission properly because it reduces the temptation to try and capture any- and every- one.
With that in mind I will leave Seth to wrap it all up:
“If it sounds like you need humility and patience to do permission marketing, you’re right. That’s why so few companies do it properly.”