You are in complete control of how long customers should and will maintain their online relationship with you.
Some marketers stack the deck by pre-checking fields that sign a customer up to receive e-mail, such as during the purchase process. Some prefer to make customers check a box to opt-in. Others acquire names and just add them to their mailing list with without any advance notice or consent from the consumer. So what's the right thing to do?
The first thing to consider is legal compliance. Remember though, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it's right. Think about this for a moment, would you stand in the middle of Times Square and yell insults at people? Expressing your opinion in that way is legal, but it won't garner you any friends. In the US opt-in is not required. It is legal to make people opt out, but is it the right thing to do?
The answer to that question is philosophically steeped in the definition of the relationship the marketer wants to have with their customers. The relationship needs to be about mutual respect and a reciprocal value proposition. For example:
· IF, the marker clearly and conspicuously discloses that by entering an e-mail address the customer will begin to get relevant and targeted information about their respective services, opt-out might be fair.
· IF, the marketer does a good job explaining what the benefits are of the e-mail and then honors them, opt-out might be fair.
· IF, the registration form clearly states that the customer needs to uncheck a box, opt-out might be fair.
On the other hand, in the EU and many other countries, opt-out is not legal. Permission is required to send commercial e-mail. But, if the marketer doesn’t adhere to the principles above, their customers will probably opt-out or stop responding anyway.
Whether names are acquired via opt-out, opt-in, or double opt-in really don’t matter (assuming you are legally compliant). Regardless of what type of permission you have the responsibility to maintain the trust and respect of your customers ultimately falls on your shoulders. It is critical to be:
· Transparent about your data collection/use
· Respectful of your customers’ preferences
· Timely and relevant with the content you send them
The fallacy of the opt-out strategy is that it will yield a larger customer database. The myth of an opt-in policy is that the customer is willingly expecting your next e-mail. The reality is that the customer gets the final say. They will flourish, become dormant, complain or just leave if you don’t live up to your end of the bargain.
Rick Buck, VP privacy and ISP relations, CIPP, e-Dialog