Playing by the Rules
“The thing is that just like all other direct-response channels, once people who are responsible get involved in the business process, the significance of opt-in versus opt-out will wane,” says Herp. “The work we’ve done with lists that are not specifically opt-in speaks to that. You can be responsible, not because they’ve given permission, but because they will like your offer.”
Not everyone agrees. Says Rosalind Resnick, president of NetCreations, a New York-based opt-in-only list management firm, “Mailers who mailed to other lists have found that response rates aren’t as good. There are more negative lists. It’s not that we want to be P.C. [politically correct], but if you mail to people and they complain, it’s not in the marketer’s favor.”
Get Permission to Market
Marketers with aversions to controversy may want to pursue permission marketing methods. According to a study released in October 1999 by IMT Strategies, a New York-based sales and marketing research and advisory firm, more than half of all e-mail users feel positively about permission e-mail marketing. Nearly three-quarters of users respond to permission e-mail with some frequency, said the survey.
The definition of what constitutes permission or opt-in e-mail is still vague. An opt-in list usually involves subscribers affirmatively registering for e-mail messages, whether on a Web registration form or on the phone. An opt-out list usually involves a list owner sending a message asking customers who do not wish to receive commercial e-mail messages to respond. A double opt-in list follows up a Web registration by sending an e-mail to the registration address confirming the opt in by requiring that the subscribers respond to confirm that they wish to stay on the list.
Many opt-out lists have response mechanisms, but just because a customer hasn’t responded to an opt-out message by unsubscribing doesn’t mean he or she wants to receive messages. It could just mean that he or she is completely unresponsive by e-mail. Double opt-in is generally best because it filters the names, providing e-mail addresses that are likely to be the most responsive.