As a marketing tool, email holds its own with some of the best around. In fact, it is one of the best. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about using it as a promotional method. The right way always starts with fully exercising the opt-in aspect of permission-based email marketing. Which type of opt-in option is right for you, well, that’s another story. To help you decide, let’s take a closer look at the different tiers of opt-in email marketing and see what each kind has to offer.

Single Opt-In

With the single opt-in, you are pretty much doing just enough to get by, which in this case means you are satisfying one of the most important requirements of CAN-SPAM. Someone visits your website, sees that you are offering a newsletter on a topic that interests them, and sign their name on the virtual dotted line to receive it. You put them on your list, send along a welcome message and catch them the next time you send out your newsletter. In this scenario, you are essentially getting the permission to contact and proceed into the email relationship with the new subscriber in one fell swoop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, but as far as stocking your list with the best prospects or potential customers, it is far from the most reliable method.

Double Opt-In

In the email marketing world, the double opt-in is considered a best practice (and the one Benchmark Email prefers). Going off the tier explained above, you should be able to see that this option is basically what it sounds like. Instead of taking the everything-in-one-fell-swoop approach after the visitor initially expresses their interest, you send them a follow-up message asking them to reconfirm their interest in the email newsletter that got them to sign up. From there, you add them to your master list, send along your welcome message and proceed with nurturing the email relationship. This simple extra step can go a long way towards improving the overall quality of your list and stocking it full of excited subscribers who are more likely to respond.

Soft Opt-In

Lastly we have an option not too many email marketers feel comfortable fooling around with – for good reasons. In simple terms, a soft opt-in is a form of temporary consent or permission to contact someone via email. For example, if you meet someone at a convention who doesn’t necessarily want to be on your list, but wants more information about your solution, a soft opt-in would technically allow you to contact them without violating privacy regulations. However, this option has some specifics such as making sure your content is related to the product or service at hand, letting the person know they can stop receiving your communications upon collecting their information and providing a way to opt-out of subsequent mailings. Needless to say, you need to be very thorough when incorporating the soft opt-in into your email marketing efforts.

Meeting someone and having them hand you a business card and ask you to email them is a form of consent, to be sure. However, in this case there is a much greater risk of a person forgetting they ever met you or solicited your newsletters. A worst case scenario has them firing back at your email as spamming and endangering your sending reputation. For this reason, it is Benchmark’s stance that this form of opt-in should be avoided.

You can strengthen a soft opt-in by sending the reader a Welcome or Verification Email that confirms they wish to receive your correspondence. This transforms a soft opt-in to a confirmed opt-in, and is a much better practice.