Opt-In, Opt-Out, Opt-What?

Email marketing can be difficult to navigate on its own, from who to write to, what to write about, how much is too much, and more. If you want some advice on managing an email campaign, check out our blog post on Email Marketing.

If you’ve decided to start email marketing and you’ve already chosen a platform that works for you, great! Your first step is to start building your list. While you may already have a contact database of hundreds, or even thousands, of people, you can’t simply import all your contacts into your email list. Even if you’ve been working with them for years, you need to obtain their explicit consent to receive your marketing emails. This is referred to as “opting-in.”

How to Obtain Opt-Ins?

Our first suggestion is to email your contacts personally with a message that includes an inviting link to a hosted opt-in form. This is a form that you have no doubt filled out yourself dozens of times yourself, and it’s pretty much ubiquitous in today’s digital world. Know that not everyone will fill it out. In fact, you will likely see that your email list becomes a very small subset of your contact list. Don’t worry! Not everyone uses email newsletters to stay updated; they may prefer a different method of contact.  

We always suggest sending a personalized message, especially to your top prospects and existing key customers. Personalization will give you a much higher chance of soliciting an opt-in than a generic copy/pasted template. While sending personalized emails to thousands of contacts is not practical, we would suggest starting with, say, your top 50 contacts. This is a great task for a sales rep to do while waiting to catch a flight or while in the hotel room at night after a meeting. You can even send a follow-up email after a few days if they haven’t opted-in yet, but remember, you don’t want to spam them.

If your company is new and you don’t have any contacts yet, you may be thinking about renting a list to start getting your company’s name out there. However, check the Terms of Use of your email marketing platform, as some of them do not allow the use of rented lists due to the higher bounce and unsubscribe rates. While rented lists can be useful, they are rarely as targeted as you would expect. Sometimes it can be better to work from the ground up.

Getting Consent

We’ve mentioned getting explicit consent to opt-in, so let’s talk about what that means. For most email marketing platforms, it means that the consent can be tracked. Your contact filled out an opt-in form, confirmed their subscription, and electronically consented to receiving emails from you. You can verify the date and time this specific contact agreed to be on your emailing list.

Let’s say you’re attending a conference in-person. You visit a few booths, chat to some people, and get their business cards. You’ve received their email address. You might think that now you can email them, right? Even if you ask and they verbally agree to be added to your mailing list, you still should not email them through your email marketing platform.

Why? Because such consent isn’t trackable. There’s no way to prove that they consented, which then causes an issue for both you, your email marketing platform, and your customers.

Here’s what you can do, though. Post-conference, you can email everyone whose business card you received through your own personal corporate email and ask them to fill out an opt-in form and subscribe. Simply add a link to the form in your email body. To be completely clear, you cannot send them an email blast through your email marketing provider at this point. You can send them a personal email yourself, asking them to subscribe to your mailing list with a link to your opt-in form.

You can send them a personal email yourself, asking them to subscribe to your mailing list with a link to your opt-in form.

For exhibitors, another option is to have your opt-in form ready on a tablet at your booth. When prospects or customers visit your booth, you can offer them the tablet and suggest they fill out your form before leaving. Similar to a “hot lead”, people who are meeting you face-to-face in your booth are more likely to take the time to fill out your opt-in form. This is an easy thing for them to do while you are informing them about your latest product information. This also saves you the trouble of emailing them later to ask them to complete it – when the lead is now “colder”.

Savvy sales reps will even have the opt-in form available on their cell phone during sales calls or a client dinner, so they can ask for consent on-the-spot at just the right time.

What Goes In an Opt-In Form?

What you’re hearing so far is that in order to build a legally compliant list, you need an opt-in form. Many of the email marketing platforms include the ability to create an opt-in form. Generally, this includes their name, email address, company, phone number, and a physical address. Before submitting, users will have to click a checkbox that states they consent to receive marketing emails from your company, after which the contact’s consent is automatically recorded and tracked in the email marketing platform.

If you want to be extra cautious, you can also set it up as a double opt-in. This means after someone fills out the form and clicks submit, they will receive an instant email in their inbox asking to confirm their subscription. Until they click confirm, they will not be added to the list. This is an added security measure to ensure that someone else did not fill out the form for them. This also helps to verify their address and ensure that it doesn’t bounce. 

Even after they’ve opted-in, some people may wish to unsubscribe and opt-out. Most email marketing platforms will automatically include an unsubscribe button in the footer of all the emails you send out, but just double-check and make sure it’s included. If someone unsubscribes, try not to stress about it. They may have changed departments, no longer be in the industry, or they may simply wish to stay in contact a different way. Think of it as a self-cleaning of your email marketing list. Remember, the contact information still resides in your CRM even if they unsubscribe, and you can still send that contact a personal email through your corporate email account as necessary.

Is an Opt-In Required?

When building your list, it’s important to make sure that you are maintaining compliance with both the rules of your marketing platform and the laws of the country your business operates in. The rules vary by platform, so investigate their Terms of Use and see what they require. Most countries will also have anti-spam and privacy laws set up regarding email marketing. We’ve outlined some of the important ones to keep an eye on. Note that each country has differing levels of fines for companies who are non-compliant, so it’s in your best interest to be educated about what laws apply to your company.

United States

If you’re in California, your emails need to be CCPA compliant. What this means is that anyone must be able to unsubscribe from your list at any time. While this is the legal standard in California, it’s also just a good business practice overall.

A similar rule applies for your business under the CAN-SPAM law in the US. All emails must show an option to unsubscribe, and any unsubscribe requests must be honored within 10 days. Read more about the CAN-SPAM law here. You don’t want a list full of people who keep replying, “Please take me off this list”, “Please unsubscribe me”, and so on. You want a list full of people who want to hear from you and read about your latest project.

European Union

In Europe, email marketing gets a bit trickier. Under GDPR, nobody can be emailed without explicit consent by a clear opt-in. Even if you know someone personally, you cannot add their email address to your list unless they have completed a GDPR compliant opt-in form. Even if you aren’t located in Europe, this is a good business practice because it ensures that your list consists of people who sought your company out. They have agreed to receive marketing emails from you because they are interested in what you have to say. This works out in your favor because it will help lower your bounce and unsubscribe rates, leading to higher engagement and better analytics.

United Kingdom

Post-Brexit, the United Kingdom actually created their own UK-GDPR, which mirrors many of the same rules outlined in the EU-GDPR above. Consent must still be explicitly given through a trackable opt-in form.

Other Countries

Most countries have anti-spam laws similar to Europe’s GDPR. Canada has CASL, Japan has the Act on Regulation of Transmission of Specified Electronic Mail, and Australia has Spam Regulations. More and more countries are passing laws to protect customers from getting unwanted spam emails. To prevent any fines or getting sent to the spam folder, making sure your customers have opted-in is more important than ever.

Make sure you follow the laws and regulations of both your country and email marketing platform. Create an opt-in form and make sure that opting out is easy and accessible. In addition to compliance, though, it is simply good business practice to ensure that your contacts have opted-in. In today’s world of full inboxes, people are more likely to be annoyed by unsolicited marketing emails – in which case, they ignore your key message anyway, and leave with a bad taste in their mouth about your company. Further, most bioprocess businesses today market their products and services globally. Having to tailor your email marketing strategies based on changing local regulations, in addition to trying to make sales, is an overwhelming endeavor.

Therefore, we recommend the most straightforward approach – gain consent through electronically trackable opt-ins for all global contacts. While your list will decrease in count, it will contain the highest quality, email-friendly leads as a foundation – while you continue to connect with the rest of your list through other marketing channels and continue to build your list using the tactics above.

Congratulations, you have started to create a globally compliant list!

Need help building your list? Do you want to improve your email campaigns? Reach out to one of Hapatune’s digital marketing experts and we’ll see how we can assist you. Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.

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