Permission is Not Enough

A digital marketer in France said to me the other day, “I don’t need to worry about inbox deliverability, I have permission.” I was shocked that this myth could be so firmly held by an otherwise smart and savvy email marketer. “Do you stop trying to earn a second sale just because you made the first?” I said. “Doesn’t what you send and how you treat subscribers after they give you permission have anything to do with subscriber satisfaction?” He paused, and then agreed.

After all, it’s subscriber satisfaction, not permission, that earns our place in the inbox and gives us a chance for a response and revenue. And subscriber satisfaction is all about the experience we create with every message, over time.

Consider that:
1. Subscribers forget just seconds after they have signed up that they gave you permission. Many will deny they ever provided permission at all, even when presented with the time, date and IP address associated with their permission grant.

2. Permission files get complaints, too, which are measured every time a subscriber hits the Report Spam button in the ISP email interface, like those at BT, FastWeb, Yahoo!, Gmail, Orange or others. When a message arrives from a brand they don’t recognize or if the message has no value, subscribers will complain – permission granted or not.

3. Permission is not a factor considered by ISPs like Yahoo! or Gmail when determining your sender reputation, the only thing that determines if your messages will consistently reach the inbox. Your reputation is measured by your Sender Score and reflects your sending practices for relevance, frequency, list cleanliness, complaints and infrastructure.

Thus, permission is just a starting point. It’s certainly important – and required by law throughout Europe and in other countries around the world. We recommend it to all marketers as part of a holistic commitment to provide great subscriber experiences. Permission helps set expectations with your subscribers. Providing an email address to a company or brand is like making an agreement. Subscribers agree to give us their private email address and in exchange, we promise to send them something relevant, interesting or valuable. By setting expectations up front, subscribers are more likely to welcome and engage with marketing email messages.

The alternative is higher ISP complaints (and depressed inbox deliverability) as well as brand degradation and reduced subscriber satisfaction.

Simply, opt in does not replace relevancy and keeping your promises. Here are a few important checks for your own permission practices today:

• Make the permission grant very clear. State the frequency (weekly, daily, etc.).

• Confirm the permission grant on the landing page or order confirmation page. Don’t be shy or stealth about it. If your email program is worth signing up for, then celebrate it.

• Send a welcome message as soon as possible, and definitely within 48 hours. Restate the permission grant and make it easy to change options or unsubscribe. Rather to have them opt out now than complain later.

• If you send something new, be it a one-time mailing or a whole new newsletter, be sure to make it really clear that you are sending subscribers something outside the original permission grant, and give them a very visible and prominent chance to unsubscribe. Do this for several messages in a row, not just once. I know it feels counter-intuitive to encourage an unsubscribe – but really what you are doing is re-confirming the permission grant.

• Use a preference center. Give subscribers choices about what and how often they hear from you. Also, having choices can “flip” an unsubscribe request into a more satisfying email relationship program.

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