by Karen Talavera
Control as an aspect of permission has everything to do with offering your audience members control and nothing to do with trying to control them.
Control as a dimension of your email program means that you put your list members in the driver's seat, allowing them control over their communication choices, access to and use of their data, and even the ultimate control to broaden, narrow, or end their relationship with you.
Your target audience will truly be in control if you not only present them options for selecting but also allow them to change their preferences regarding the following:
- The types of communications they receive from you (alerts, reminders, announcements, offers, news, legal, etc.)
- The channels by which they receive different communications
- The data they've provided about themselves
- The extent to which marketing permission as well as data (especially the email address) is shared with parent companies, sister brands, partners, and third-party advertisers
- How their data is used
- When and how they can leave a communication stream
- When and how they can opt out of previous choices
Restricting control and access to choice is a hallmark of not only spam but also poorly run affiliate-marketing programs. And while many marketers may find it operationally difficult to allow all the points of control listed above, those who offer control where they can will find that their members and customers reward them not merely with appreciation but, more valuably, with loyalty.
The final step in any permission marketing process is confirmation.
Critically important to the opt-in process is confirming that a voluntary join action has taken place, as soon as possible after it occurs. In opt-in email when a member joins a list via a Web site, confirmation typically occurs via a return email message immediately deployed to the email address owner; that email does double or quadruple duty by...
- Verifying that the email address provided is correct and deliverable
- Restating log-in IDs and/or passwords, if applicable
- Providing a link to a central preference or account management center, and an option for redress (unsubscribe) if the opt-in is invalid
- Including contact information for customer service or tech support
- And last but certainly not least, beginning the onboarding process with an initial offer
Confirmation beyond initial signup should also be provided whenever a member modifies preferences, adds or deletes data, or unsubscribes.
Match the confirmation to the channel. Since significant preference and data control is now offered by many marketers through their Web sites, the use of return Web pages—sometimes in conjunction with email confirmation messages—are a best practice when changes are being made online.
The growing trend toward opt-in rather than traditional opt-out marketing is being driven by consumer overload and environmental concerns; if you keep the Six Cs of Permission in mind at each stage of your customer-relationship-building process, you'll be at least a few—if not six—steps ahead of the game.
Karen Talavera is president and founder of Synchronicity Marketing (www.synchronicitymarketing.com).