Where to start when planning an opt-in email campaign
The benefits of leveraging email in your marketing strategy are clear and plentiful. Active email accounts are expected to hit a whopping 5.6 billion by 2019, so, without an opt-in email strategy in place, your carefully crafted email campaign will go to waste.
When someone opts in, they are giving you explicit permission to send them an email, newsletter or another type of digital communication. The benefits for you include:
- Driving traffic to your brand’s website
- Establishing compliance with privacy laws, such as CAN-SPAM, General Data Protection Regulation (aka GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act
- Keeping your business off an email blacklist
- Building effective, segmented email lists
An opt-in email campaign can be informative and entertaining, and an excellent way to drive engagement. The proof is in the pudding – one of our recent opt-in email campaigns yielded a 39.4 percent open rate, and a 30.5 percent click-through rate.
To help you make the most of your next opt-in email campaign, we consulted three email marketing experts to answer some of your common questions. Our panel included:
- Linda Winter, President at Winter Group
- Melia Stuppy, Account Director at Industry Dive
- Larry Buchweitz, Vice President of Business Development at MCH Strategic Data
#1 What is opt-in email marketing?
Opt-in email marketing is the process of sending an email confirming that someone has requested to receive information from your company. That’s it. They opt-in, and you’re good to go.
The recipient of an opt-in email could be someone who filled out a form on your website, a contact you met at a conference or a referral from a customer. No matter the source, the main concern is to confirm this person’s interest in receiving your communications.
“Our subscribers opt-in to our emails. We often start the relationship with them when they see our content and coverage, and they confirm to be a subscriber to stay looped in,” Stuppy said. “After they subscribe, we check up on them – they’re going to periodically hear from us outside of their regularly scheduled content to make sure they are happy with their subscription.”
This regular check-in with a reader is not mandatory, but it will help you maintain a healthy email list.
#2 What is considered an opt-in email?
When you use the internet, you’re going to come across website forms. Most savvy marketers entice you to fill out a form in exchange for an offer; perhaps a free eBook download, a webinar code or maybe just a chance to win a cup of coffee. This form fill is an implied opt-in, but does not legally cover your business from all the laws mentioned above. To be covered under GDPR (and similar laws), you may want to go a step further than implied consent.
A single opt-in can be gained a number of ways: you may meet someone at a conference, chatted on social media or as mentioned above, the user may have filled out a form and ticked the “I consent” button on your site. By simply ticking the box, the form-filler is assumed to have consented to join your list. However, with this type of situation, you must always provide a user with an unsubscribe option.
The safer bet for a healthy email list is the double opt-in. A double opt-in means a new address is added to your email list ONLY after the owner clicks a confirmation link in an opt-in email agreeing to receive future communications. This two-step opt-in process enables you to qualify a prospective lead and ensure contacts are relevant. For this reason, a double opt-in email strategy makes sense for most education, special needs and workforce development companies.
#3 Why should I double opt-in?
Think of a double opt-in as an extra layer of protection. A single opt-in can’t verify the validity of an email address, nor how it was entered into your list. Perhaps the conference list you uploaded includes a dozen emails with a typo in the company header. These hard bounces will be a nuisance in your next email send. Deploying a double opt-in strategy confirms a person’s information is accurate on the front end.
“Double opt-in is a safety strategy for your brand,” Winter said. “It ensures that a contact has personally verified their interest in your communications.”
And, in the case of new leads, such as those provided on a conference list, double opt-in becomes even more critical.
“When receiving a list of contacts from a conference, you should never implicitly assume that every contact has opted-in, unless the conference or sponsoring organization can provide proof,” Winter added.
The double opt-in is a valuable way to find qualified leads who are engaged, and ready to move quickly through your sales funnel. These are people who are looking for your services now, so follow up on that opt-in email with your first hard-selling email nurture.
#4 Does an opt-in email help my business comply with GDPR?
Establishing compliance for privacy laws is another important function of opt-in emails. Customers will expect your brand to be up-to-speed on privacy laws, and having an opt-in campaign in place ensures you’re meeting their needs.
“Our readers are our biggest asset, and they’re valuable to us. We’re committed to being compliant with GDPR,” Stuppy said. “We developed an entire page on GDPR to walk through all of the steps and changes.”
And while we currently inquire about a business’ GDPR risks when launching an email campaign, the forthcoming laws in the U.S. are always on our mind. And the same mentality is common with third-party email vendors. Your business still needs permission, but it must be gained in a different way.
Buchweitz offered advice on the partner option: “Our clients know we’re actively vetting addresses and maintaining compliance with GDPR and CAN-SPAM, and that can be a huge relief.”
When you partner with a data-provider, your sends can be more informative and you can leverage your landing page in a more effective way.
#5 How do I write an opt-in email?
When drafting your opt-in email, you can have fun, but you should always include these three things: a straightforward reason you’re emailing them, what they will receive if they subscribe, and a button that clearly calls for them to opt-in.
We have a straightforward template to help you craft an effective opt-in email.
We have your contact information in our database and are touching base to confirm your interest in receiving our communications. We regularly share insights and news via email, such as our recent resource, [TITLE/LINK]. Sign up for our email list today to earn 10% off your next order!
Click the link below to opt-in and begin receiving regular messages.
Button: Opt me in!
We’ll be in touch!
This example is concise and to-the-point. Furthermore, this kind of message ensures your recipients understand what they are opting-in to receive and reaffirms why they should feel confident about their decision. Of course, you can feel free to get creative here – throw in an enticing offer, such as a discount or a complimentary copy of an eBook. Just remember to stay on brand; your opt-in email should mirror future correspondence and content.
#6 What are the marketing benefits to opt-in emails?
Opt-in emails are an excellent way to drive traffic to your website, nurture leads and generate sales. They offer a channel to communicate with prospects, customers and partners, as well as a valuable way to build relationships by letting a recipient know what your brand is all about.
“We don’t push anybody to make a sale or view our content; instead, we invite people,” Winter explained. “It’s about what you can do for the recipient of that email, not the other way around.”
An opt-in email confirms that someone is interested in your content, and wants to see it. This person is at a critical point in the buyer’s journey, and it’s your job to nurture them through the sales funnel. Reach out to this new audience member, and make sure your message is sincere, as Winter explains.
“A key tenet of email marketing is to be genuine. There’s a reason why someone has chosen to receive your content. It’s your job to reinforce that reason,” Winter said. “Provide valuable content, such as an offer or resource, but don’t exploit customers. Balance is key.”
We agree whole-heartedly. Gain your customers’ trust and then prove to them why you deserve it.
#7 Which email marketing service should I use for my opt-in campaign?
If you’re conducting your campaign in-house, a key step is to select an email marketing platform. We use HubSpot for our campaigns, but MailChimp, Marketo, Constant Contact, SendInBlue, Insightly, Pardot and Drip are other worthy players in the diverse email marketing space.
Most email marketing platforms are fairly user-friendly and will guide you through the process – we recommend pairing your marketing platform with your CRM. One benefit of using HubSpot is the ability to set up automatic workflows that trigger opt-in emails.
As a HubSpot Agency Partner, we have a direct pipeline to a number of talented HubSpot representatives in a variety of roles. The support provided during the onboarding process and beyond is really helpful to us, and to our clients.
Once you’ve settled on the platform, delivering your opt-in emails is simple. But, timing is vital. Avoid deploying an email campaign before a weekend or on a Monday morning. Why get lost in the shuffle? Consider A/B testing your send times (for example: try 50% at 10 a.m. and 50% at 2 p.m.), subject lines, the preview text, and asset types to see what content resonates best with your target audience.
When deployed at the right time, and to the right audience, email is a great tool for engagement.
#8 What is the purpose of an opt-in email?
Your opt-in email will keep your email list healthy. Both Buchweitz and Stuppy reinforced this belief:
“Email marketing is very high impact. When I wake up in the morning, my email is one of the first things that I check,” Stuppy said. “The value for advertisers is getting high-impact engagement with a prospect or potential customer.”
And every email click is another touchpoint in your sales funnel. It’s a confirmation of your plan, and it starts with spotting any mistakes. It’s important to learn from them.
After deploying an opt-in campaign, you will be able to review its results and ensure that your list is accurate and relevant. A healthy opt-in email subscriber list is absolutely critical to the success of future email marketing campaigns.
“MCH sends about 5 million emails a month,” Buchweitz said. “Opt-in emails are a crucial part of ensuring the deliverability of content, and ensuring that the lists we’re providing to clients are current.”
A healthy subscriber list also ensures your brand is reaching the right audience. When it comes to an opt-in list, an engaged audience is critical.
“We’d rather remove subscribers who aren’t engaging to make sure our list is healthy, clean and accurate, than quote a high number of subscribers who don’t actually engage with our content,” Stuppy said. “And, when we’re reporting to clients, we want to make sure that we’re giving an accurate picture of our subscriber list.”
List maintenance should be a scheduled process. Embed a bi-monthly email in your marketing strategy. You can feature fun holiday emails, content asset offerings or survey results, all with a goal of getting that click from the right audience.
“We also have a list scrub process where we clean our opt-in list every six months to a year, checking to see if there are email bounces occurring, if a subscriber is still engaging, etcetera,” Stuppy continued, “Ultimately, we do this to confirm whether a person is still a valid subscriber and wants to be receiving our emails.”
#9 How do I increase opt-ins?
Finally, you can increase your success rate by encouraging customers to opt-in by promoting your email marketing offer with a little digital word of mouth. Why spend all of your time and effort creating a fantastic opt-in program that nobody sees? Here are a few promotion ideas to get you started:
- Set up an automated opt-in channel and include opt-in links throughout your website, including blogs and service pages.
- Share your opt-in email campaign on social media – ask your partners and vendors to spread it around, too!
- Run a social media influencer campaign geared towards filling your email list.
- Insert some fun with a giveaway. Giveaways are a great opportunity to share your message and generate excitement, though these work best as part of a double opt-in email strategy.
- If users haven’t replied to any recent emails, add them to a “re-opt-in” list.
Remember: email subscribers will come and go based on their needs, so having a proactive outreach strategy in place is an excellent way to continue driving sign-ups.
“Our marketing team is dedicated to smart audience development and subscriber growth. Our goal is to engage and get new subscribers that fit our target reader profile. We leverage a mix of channels for this, including social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook,” Stuppy said.
Opt-in email subscriber lists should never be static. Eventually, they will evolve over time and will require time and effort to maintain. Linda Winter sums it up succinctly:
“It can be tempting to market only to your current opt-in list, but you must have ways to refresh that list and engage new audience members. Opted-in emails do not negate the need for prospecting,” Winter said.
Be vigilant in looking for the next client, the next customer, the next district that needs your news and insights. Remember, your email communications are a direct connection to teachers, parents, administrators and legislators – let’s make them start working for your bottom line.
Got 10 more minutes to fill…
- Make the moves with Marketing – The Benefits of Running a Focus Group at an Edtech Conference
- Or perhaps, pick Public Relations – Four Public Relations Trends for 2020
- Spice it up with Social Media – Why Education Marketing Needs Social Media Advertising
- Or keep it cool with Content Marketing – The 2019 Marketing Planning Series: Content Tools & Trends