When Your Mailing List Doesn’t Meet Customer Expectations: Permission, Privacy, and Consent

If part of your business marketing plan includes newsletters or other messages sent to an email distribution list, you’ve probably already thought about privacy issues and opt-in permission. If you’ve established a clear opt-in format for your mailing list, you’re on the right track, but email permission isn’t quite as simple as many business owners imagine.

Email marketing is a very effective and economical way to keep customers informed about your company’s services, new products, and any special offers. It also goes a long way toward keeping your brand visible to new and existing clients and helping to ensure repeat business. But with so many email and newsletter options, it can be easy to lose track of permissions and consent—or accidentally share email addresses with other subscribers or even hackers.

The fundamentals of a good opt-in policy are simple:

  1. Allow people to sign up for your mailings easily with minimal (or no) personal information required, other than an email address
  2. Allow members to unsubscribe easily if they’re no longer interested in receiving mailings
  3. Protect privacy of personal information and email addresses

Unfortunately, there’s usually more to it than these three simple rules. If you’ve ever signed up for a mass mailing list offered by a large firm, you’re probably familiar with the kinds of options they offer upon registration. Are you interested in receiving our monthly newsletter? Special offers? Weekly updates on our staff and services? Additional offerings from our partners? You might be presented with a series of checkboxes representing the various mailings you can opt into.

Of course, if you don’t select a certain box, you’d expect to be left off that part of the mailing list… but technological glitches or simple human error can result in certain users receiving messages in error, or unsubscribe features malfunctioning. Nobody wants to be inundated with dozens of notices if they’ve only registered for a monthly newsletter, or have their email address shared with other partner companies if they specified that they wanted it kept off of public lists—or if they were never informed that their address might be shared.

With the complexity of today’s marketing mailing lists, a single opt-in registration isn’t enough. It’s essential to provide your customers with the choice of various mailings, and to ensure that you send only the messages they request.

If your business is small enough to offer only a single newsletter, then these options will be simple for you. But it’s still important to explicitly inform customers of exactly what you’ll be sending them—otherwise, you’ll risk alienating or confusing people when your newsletter arrives in their inbox more (or less) frequently than they expect.

Email privacy and opt-in consents have never been so complicated as they are for many of our business clients, but we offer systems that make this process easier and more reliable. As a result, you’ll help to protect your clients’ privacy and your company’s reputation.


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