Shop Talk: Opt-Out Email Strategies
Q: "What's your opinion on using an affirmative opt-in email strategy versus an assumed opt-in strategy, when the subscriber groups include existing customers only (no prospects, leads, etc.) and email addresses have been pulled from a CRM system? These subscribers have not necessarily signed up to receive email on a website or through any other method."
— Alicia Cruz, email marketing manager at United Stationers
A: Sending email to anyone without explicit permission can create a big headache for your company through a loss of revenue on your current email list.
Don't assume just because they're existing customers they'll be happy — or even tolerate — receiving unsolicited emails. "Assumed opt-in," more commonly called opt-out, email lists not only have lower response rates, but also cause more subscribers to report your email as spam to ISPs, which can cause your domain or IP address to get blocked.
Besides getting your IP blocked, customers may decide your use of their email addresses is unwarranted and stop doing business with you.
Also, consider how long it's been since your company sent to these email addresses. Abandoned email addresses are often re-used by email providers as decoy accounts (commonly referred to as spam traps) to catch spammers. Besides spam traps, ISPs and email receivers will also determine whether to accept your email based on the number of bad or nonexistent addresses you mail to.
Given these risks, I think it's a big mistake to use an opt-out list, even if it's made up of existing customers. It just doesn't make sense to put your current email program in jeopardy of a poor reputation — and poor deliverability as well. A better bet is to change your process to start affirmatively opting in current customers to prevent potential deliverability issues from mailing to an assumed opt-in list.