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The Value of Opt-ins in a Spam Heavy World

Participating Solution Provider

The Value of Opt-ins in a Spam Heavy World

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Why Explicit Opt-ins are MUCH Greater than Implied Consent

When it comes to successful marketing campaigns, I mean the ones that not only get opened and read but lead to actions, there are no shortcuts. The businesses that understand what their clients value, and provide value over and over again, are much more successful than those that try to "touch" customers the X number of times that marketing gurus say they should. Are you just adding to the flood of information that people get bombarded with, and screen out, every day? Explicit Opt-in > Implied when it comes to building the value of your mailing list.

What We Compete With Every Day

So what are your messages competing with? The latest studies I've read state that people get an average of over 100 work-related emails per day. Studies also show that the percentage of emails that are spam are approximately 49%, out of the billions of emails sent out each day. Spam is a BIG DEAL for service providers as well as consumers. It causes me no end of grief as a web designer who has to protect my clients from registration spam and form submission spam. I don’t like hearing from clients that they got hit with 2000+ spam emails because a plugin changed and bot checks stopped working.


It is a big deal to the companies who have to deliver email too. Email services, such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Outlook, use reputation scoring to rank how likely it is that a mail server will send out spam. It takes time to build up a good reputation and high deliverability rates and very little time to get blacklisted. Service providers like Constant Contact take their reputation very seriously when it comes to preventing spam. Have you really read the CC Anti-Spam policy? You should, it has some great advice along with the rules, and is an easy read.

Bad Practices in Email List Growth

With all of the resources we have for researching brands and products, the typical sales funnel has changed a lot in our digital and mobile world. It is one reason why social media is so effective and necessary, and why a mobile-friendly website is so key. People look things up all the time! People state opinions about everything, and those opinions can have a staggering reach and impact. Your business may reach out and "touch" people, but those people are reaching back and researching before they make decisions. Buying decisions happen from a well-informed approach these days, not just from a sense of familiarity. Good will and opinions matter, so we should take extra care in not annoying potential customers with unwanted contacts.businesscardsbowl.jpg


I have been annoyed by plenty of people who take my business card and use it as an invitation to try to sell me something. I realize when I hand them my card or sign up for a gift drawing that I might end up on a list somewhere, but that doesn't mean my implied consent makes me less annoyed. I'm even more frustrated when a person asks for my card under the false pretense of doing business with me, but the only contact I get from them is a sales email. The effort they spent putting me on their list doesn't pay off. Unwanted emails that cause me to report spam or unsubscribe will ultimately harm the sender's reputation. Maybe this practice works out for some marketers, but I question how many are just adding to their list for the sake of growing it. Numbers on your list that are dead weight cost you money and ultimately don’t lead to sales if people never open your messages. Do “touches” count if they just see an email from you regularly but never read it or act? Some people think so, but I disagree.

Best Practices in Growing Your List

Did you know that welcome message open rates are typically 50-60%, compared to 20-30% average of other types of campaigns. People are far more likely to open a welcome email because they expect to see it. You can read more best practices here:


When you get explicit consent from a person either through sign up forms or directly asking them in person, (not playing coy with the business card game or tiny text disclaimers), and follow up with what they expect to receive from you, you are one step closer to being part of the "in" crowd of content they consume. Momentum, reminding them you exist, consistency, meeting expectations... all of these lead to your reputation as desired content in their inboxes. If your messages end up in spam, how likely is it that your contact will notice and move the message out of spam (how often do you wade through the cesspool of your trash folder…)? With explicit consent, that likelihood goes up significantly.


Are you using your welcome email and a series of automated messages effectively? Is the series evergreen and generally relevant regardless of the stage of buying decision your customer may be in? If you do your part to add value to what you send so people look forward to your content, you can take it a step further and ask them to add your email to a contact list. This helps with deliverability of your content. I know several savvy marketers that create a sense of urgency for getting people to read their emails. They tell subscribers that they remove anyone who doesn’t read after 3 or 4 times in a row.


There are a couple of steps you can take to ensure people want to hear from you, Confirmed Opt-In (double opt-in), or a confirmation email. The double opt-in only applies to people who sign up for your lists themselves. It doesn’t apply for people you manually add via import, or to existing lists. You can still check with these manual adds by turning on the option to send a confirmed opt-in email. unsubscribereason.jpg


I know many businesses who automatically tie booking and sales systems into their mailing list. For my own clients, this leads to many unsubscribes with the reason of "I never signed up for your emails."

If you are using this type of implied consent, you might consider keeping these customers segmented from the ones who specifically opt-in to hear from you. They are less likely to enjoy general email blasts and more inclined to report you as spam, unsubscribe, or only open less frequent incentives like coupons or bounce back offers.


Constant Contact allows you to import lists of your contacts into your account. However, there are a few rules when it comes to these email addresses. Did you know that you are not supposed to send to non-specific emails like marketing@ or Sales@ or Admin@ addresses? If someone gives you an address like that, they are probably planning to screen or ignore emails from you. How often do you think emails to generic addresses are read by a decision maker who will act on them? Why keep them as dead weight?


I encourage you to set expectations in advance before you start to send email to your contacts. Use the tools available to ask your contacts to explain the reason they unsubscribe, and make informed decisions from the reasons they provide. Your email list should serve your business and lead to a great ROI, not act as costly dead weight.

Wild World of the Web Guide
Alex Zorach
Not applicable

Re: The Value of Opt-ins in a Spam Heavy World

Auto-subscribing people to a mailing list when they place sales is bad practice. I think if anything, you are too generous or gentle in your criticism here.


When a company does that to me, I often hit the spam button, especially if it's a company I don't have a favorable impression of. Another thing I have companies do is that I will personally email someone in the company, or I will contact customer service once, and somehow I will get subscribed to a list.


It especially angers me how when I reply personally to companies, contacting them about practices like this, I very rarely have my concerns acknowledged or addressed.  Failing to address my concerns when I reach out is a virtual guarantee that I will hit the spam button the next time I get an unwanted email from your company. I reach out to companies as a courtesy because I know how much email reputation is important, and I'm giving them an opportunity to apologize and rectify the situation before I take the harsher action of punishing them for their transgression.


I run RateTea which has a mailing list of its own and sends out a lot of server-generated emails too, as a social networking site, and I know how important it is to maintain a good mailing reputation. On RateTea, I have never ever sent a form email, newsletter, or automated email to anyone who has not explicitly signed up through the site, and we use a double-verification system too. And yet, in spite of holding ourselves to these high standards, our emails still gets rejected as spam sometimes.


It angers me that all the other people out there who are using sloppy, unscrupulous, and often highly aggressive and non-consensual email practices are making life (and business) more difficult for me and other people who take greater care to respect people. I have poured hours of my life into various things to ensure my email gets delivered -- and so have many other people in the business world.


The people engaging in these "dubious consent" or "implied consent" scenarios you describe are making life more difficult for people like me. I want to punish them. I want them, not me, to be paying the price for the imposition their actions is taking on others.

This is why I'm often very happy to hit that spam button. I encourage others to do the same.