Can I Add Them to My List? A Quick Checkup for Permission Marketing

Seth Godin literally wrote the book on Permission Marketing. These days, all of us in the business of marketing our businesses have to play by the rules of the opt-in game. But it can be SO tempting to push the opt-in game boundaries in attempts to grow our lists – and sometimes we don’t even intend to break them!

Tell me if any of these situations sound familiar:

Oh! He bought something from me and I have his email from the email delivery of his receipt. He bought something from me so he must be interested in hearing from me every week – I can SO add him to my list, no problem.

Yes, problem. Buying something from you may seem to indicate interest in you & your products but unless this person specifically signs up to receive communication from you every week (or every day or every month – however often you deliver your email) – you are sending spam my friend, sorry to break it to you.

What can you do in this situation? You can 1) after purchase – invite them to subscribe to your very popular weekly newsletter or perhaps offer a download incentive related to the purchase or 2) pre-purchase, include a check mark for your buyer to subscribe to your newsletter via the checkout process. Both very clear opt-ins.

Or how about this one:

OOO! I’m so pumped about all these business cards from all these people I met at that conference last week. They gave me their card so I can add them to my list, right?

No. Giving a business card is the equivalent of connecting on LinkedIn – just because we met briefly at a conference does not mean I want to hear from you every week. We didn’t talk anything about you crowding my inbox every week and honestly I might not even remember who you are or the name of your company and will probably hit SPAM when you send me that first weekly tip email.

What can you do instead? You can follow up with these people by connecting via Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. and even send them an email saying how nice it was to meet them at that conference and then ONLY IF you think they would enjoy/be a good fit with your newsletter, you could invite them to subscribe on their own with a link you’ve provided. What do we have here? Very clear opt-in process.

And this one:

I just purchased a list of 1,000 people in my target market – it was a totally legitimate purchase and these people signed up for ‘third-party offers’ so I can instantly grow my list by 1,000 by signing them up for my offer!

Okay, so although your purchase of that list wasn’t illegal, and in the best-of-best cases, these people really did opt-in for ‘third party offers’ – this still is NOT a good way to grow your list. These people don’t know YOU or YOUR COMPANY or ANYTHING about YOUR NEWSLETTER. These people are not good quality to add to your list. They won’t know you, won’t recognize you, they’ll hit unsubscribe or spam and seriously deteriorate the quality of your list.

What can you do in this case? Well firstly, I hope you don’t in the future, ever buy a list. Best way to handle this is to write an invitation-to-subscribe to your list email describing the benefits or offering an incentive along with the link where they can subscribe and have the TRUE OWNER of the list (the name that these people would recognize – where they first signed up and where they checked ‘third-party offers’) send that email on your behalf. These people will have a better chance of opening that email because they’re more likely to recognize that owner’s name and perhaps, if your email is beautifully written for conversion, you’ll get a few TRUE opt-ins from it.

Golden Rule of Permission Marketing: Your subscribers need to opt-in THEMSELVES and specifically for your MARKETING emails.

Have you ever considered adding people to your list? What was the context? Do you have any other examples of tempting-but-not-OK-to-add-to-your-list situations? Let me know in the comments!

Related: 3 Secrets to Developing an Email Marketing Incentive that Works

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Good post Liz. I get tempted to place my current clients on my list but I figure its best sending them an email asking them to sign up if they are interested.

    • Liz Lockard says:

      Thanks Patrick! That one can be so tempting but if they’re a happy client, your sign up conversion rate should tend to be higher. Otherwise, incentives can help :)

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