Email Marketing: Snow + Rock Forced Opt-in

Email is dead, right? We don’t think so. We’re not sure if it’s just us, but we see a generally increasing quality of email from recognised brands, and a decreasing quantity of pointless spam.

At the recent TFM&A (Technology for Marketing & Advertising) show in London, the overriding theme was ‘integration’. Now that most brands have embraced social media, they need to align their messaging, campaigns and media channels to complement each other and give their messages the best chance of reinforcing each other rather than creating some kind of digital Tower of Babel.

This means that email marketing hasn’t gone away – not by a long chalk. It’s perfectly complemented to social media by providing a welcome, well constructed offer or some other value proposition that cannot be delivered adequately by Twitter or Facebook (but that can certainly be socialised that way) for instance.

But email marketers face one particular challenge – maintaining and growing a high quality opt-in database over time. If you work on the basis that you will probably lose 1% of your database every time you use it and you send out an email every month, you will need to grow your database by 12% a year just to stand still. So the email marketer is locked into a war of attrition. And what’s the most frustrating part of that for ecommerce marketers? The fact that whatever enticements you offer a buyer at your store, a significant proportion will either not opt-in, or chose to opt-out. These people are saying “I want to buy from you, but I don’t want to talk to you”. ‘Fair enough’ you might say.

So I was intrigued to get the email below from Snow + Rock recently. This is a technique I haven’t seen and we haven’t used. I must have opted-out. So they emailed me. . . to tell me what I’m missing out on, and to put that straight. But now comes the interesting bit: The call to action isn’t to ask me to opt-in. But to opt-out. Hence if I do nothing I’m opted in. I’m not sure to be impressed with their cunning, or annoyed. Or even if it’s strictly legal.

We have tried something a little similar and so far it hasn’t ruffled any feathers. Faced with the same dilemma of opted-out store customers; once a year when our client has their strongest offer of the year, we send that particular email to all customers – even the opted-out ones. The email they receives complies in every way with best practice guidelines and has a clear easy opt-out.

The interesting thing is that the total rate of opt-outs from the email is no higher than usual, despite the larger base. Those that do opt-out in this case will never be emailed again unless they opt-in again in the future.

We think that it’s important to understand the likely psychology of your targets. Maybe they bought something a year ago from you and everything went fine so they are reasonably disposed towards your company. They may think when they get your email: ‘That’s funny, I’m sure I opted out’. However, they are also likely to think: “Hmm, it is a stonking good deal though -maybe I’m missing out”.


If instead they think. “Cheeky buggers, I opted out” and do so again, at least they will never hear from you again, and have no cause for complaint. The proof to this is in the pudding: The proportion of opt-outs who remain opt-ins is 9.5:1. And no-one has ever complained. Sometimes you just need to save people from themselves.



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