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Updated Feb 02, 2024

What Is Opt-in Email Marketing?

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Jennifer Post, Contributing Writer

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When you visit a website, you’ll often see a pop-up window presenting the option to enter your email address to receive a discount or free shipping. After entering your email address, you can take advantage of the sales incentive and expect to receive marketing emails from the company. 

For a business with an online presence, opt-in email marketing is a way to reach prospects who have already shown interest in your products or services and are more likely to buy. We’ll take a deeper look at opt-in email marketing and what prospects and sellers should know. We’ll also share tips on how sellers can maximize opt-in rates and optimize successful customer engagement with subsequent emails.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right email marketing software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

What is opt-in email marketing? 

“Opt-in email marketing is the process of using email collection methods to capture email addresses from potential customers, also known as prospects,” explained Ali Scarlett, certified networking expert, author and entrepreneur. “Once you have that prospect’s email, you can market your products or services to them via email.”

Typically, email collection is permission-based, meaning the website will ask visitors to enter their email addresses and fully disclose the types of emails they can expect. However, Scarlett cautions that it’s possible these days to buy email marketing lists without the permission of the people holding those email addresses.

Opt-in email processes

There are several types of opt-in email processes businesses can use: 

  • Single opt-in: Single opt-in is the most common process. The prospect enters their email address into the collection form and is added to the email marketing list.
  • Double opt-in: You’ve probably experienced double opt-in emails without even realizing it. “A double opt-in email is when someone signs up for an email marketing list, and then an email is sent out to that person [with] a link to confirm the subscription,” Scarlett explained. “Then, when the confirmation is completed, that person is officially added to the email marketing list.” While some prospects won’t complete that second step, the seller can be assured that those who do are genuinely interested in its products or services. 
  • Implicit opt-in: Implicit opt-ins are usually generated when someone fills out a form. “Implicit [single] opt-in is when someone fills out a form and they’re automatically enrolled into the site’s email list anyway because it’s implied the site is allowed to,” Scarlett said. “The implication is usually due to the website’s privacy policy stating that filling out the form automatically opts the user into their email marketing list.”
Did You Know?Did you know

Implicit opt-ins help build an email marketing list quickly, but you run the risk of prospects disregarding future emails as spam.

Importance and benefits of opt-in email marketing

Opt-in email marketing is a significant experience for prospects and sellers. Prospects willingly sign up for information they’re interested in, and sellers can market to consumers who’ve expressed interest in their offerings. 

“For the prospect, [opt-in email marketing is] important because they’ll be receiving emails about products or services they’ll likely be interested in,” Scarlett noted. “For the seller, it’s important because email marketing is a low-cost, time-efficient, easily scalable way to market their products or services.”

The opt-in process means visitors fully understand that you’re collecting their information. “By agreeing to an opt-in prompt, it means the user is accepting and consenting to receiving future emails from you and handing over their email address and potentially other data being captured,” explained Katie Melissa, owner and founder of Elite Automation LLC.

Significant benefits of opt-in email marketing include the following: 

  • Opt-in email marketing boosts sales. Opt-in email systems often start with a discount offer, so an immediate initial purchase is more likely. Future emails alert the prospect to sales, new products and more opportunities, increasing sales for your business. 
  • Opt-in email marketing strengthens customer relationships. As you share valuable offers and helpful information with your prospects and customers, you build relationships, trust and customer loyalty
  • Opt-in email marketing helps create cross-promotion opportunities. Your email marketing list is valuable. You may be able to carefully curate other businesses’ products and include them in your promotional materials, building additional business relationships. However, you must ensure your recipients understand that their email addresses are being shared with other businesses and that you work with reputable companies only. 
  • Opt-in email marketing ensures high engagement rates. John Greving, head of content and SEO at IWD Agency, says opt-in email lists ensure you can always access a specific market segment you don’t have to chase. “Whereas other marketing campaigns need to begin with considering how the business will get the attention of its prospects, a robust opt-in email list means that step is already covered,” Greving explained. Your well-crafted opt-in email marketing campaign will likely enjoy a high email open rate, an excellent click-through rate and more conversions. 

Opting out of marketing emails

While there are a few ways to opt in to marketing emails, people can opt out if they no longer want to receive those messages.

“Email opt-out is where you unsubscribe from an email list, which causes you to ‘opt out’ of any future marketing emails from that sender,” Scarlett explained.

Email marketing in the age of digital privacy laws, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), means that businesses sending emails must obey specific requirements.

“In order to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, all marketers are required to include an option to opt out of every email,” said Leanne Scott, founder of Passive Income Superstars. “It can also be beneficial to offer the option to opt out from emails about a specific subject or product that someone has no interest in. This can result in lower unsubscribe rates.”

Tips for getting customers to opt in to your emails

It might seem counterintuitive to market your marketing emails, but in a way, that’s what you must do to increase your opt-in email numbers.

Datis Mohsenipour, vice president of global marketing at Xplor Recreation, and Bev Feldman, email marketing technology consultant and strategist at Your Personal Tech Fairy, offered the following email marketing tips to boost your opt-ins:

  1. Promote your email marketing subscriptions. Mohsenipour advises sellers to promote their email marketing subscriptions through social media, blogs and other online platforms. You can also use automated email sequences to encourage opt-ins when someone purchases a product or service or downloads a resource from your site.
  2. Communicate clearly. Ensure people know the benefits of subscribing to your list. Prospects should be able to easily answer the question “What’s in it for me?”
  3. Avoid too many questions. Don’t ask for too much personal information on your opt-in form. While you want to capture their email addresses, resist the urge to go beyond collecting anything more than a first name to use for personalization.
  4. Have a strong call to action. Feldman gave this example: “Instead of using the standard ‘subscribe’ as your call to action, you might say, ‘Yes, I want my free action guide,’ or ‘Send me the video.’”
  5. Include your opt-in form on multiple web pages. Your email marketing opt-in form should be below and embedded within blog posts. It should also be on your homepage, About page, Services page and website footer.
  6. Offer solutions to pain points. It’s crucial to understand your target audience so you can address and solve their pain points in your email marketing messages. “The best examples of opt-in emails will help to address one of the following goals: to increase health, wealth or happiness; save time; or improve relationships,” Scott explained.
  7. Give customers an incentive. Offering something of value in exchange for agreeing to receive marketing emails is a solid strategy. “Offer something enticing in exchange for their email address and possibly other valuable data,” Melissa advised. “You can boost your email opt-ins by luring users in with an appealing offer. For example, you can provide a free coaching session, a free tips and tricks guide, or a discount on your product or service in exchange for their email.”
TipBottom line

Your opt-in incentive shouldn’t be a one-time deal. If it’s a one-time enticement, customers may unsubscribe as soon as they’ve redeemed your initial offer.

  1. Test your email opt-in form. If your opt-in form is inviting and trustworthy, people are more likely to sign up for your emails. To determine if your email form is ideal, A/B test it. Have two versions of your opt-in form to see which one draws more subscribers. Change the imagery, call to action and email design. Once you’ve determined which form performed better, make that your website’s opt-in form.
  2. Show your authority. Proving you’re an authority in your field will boost your opt-ins. “[Being an authority] can mean having a big social media following or a large YouTube audience,” Greving noted. “Having guest posts show up again and again on industry websites or simply having a popular blog on your own are both helpful too. Offering actionable advice that is unique in your market will prove to prospects that your emails are going to be equally valuable.
  3. Encourage, don’t annoy. Annoying email campaigns with too many messages do more harm than good. Even though these customers have purposely signed up for your marketing emails, if they receive too many or start receiving ones that aren’t relevant to them, they will no longer see a benefit.
  4. Keep welcome emails simple. After someone joins your list, send a straightforward welcome email. “You can send a welcome email that advertises all the wonderful information the reader will be receiving in the future,” Greving recommended. “You can send a video to convey this as well.”
  5. Deliver on the opt-in promise. Always follow through on any promises you make to the prospect, whether you’ve offered a discount or a lead magnet like a course or white paper. 
TipBottom line

Use market segmentation to help prevent email fatigue by sending only the most relevant information to specific subscriber segments.

The best email marketing software

The best email marketing software and services make it easy to create attractive emails, track your campaigns and boost your opt-ins. Consider the following platforms with excellent features for small businesses: 

  • Constant Contact: Constant Contact is a robust solution to help you maximize your digital marketing ROI. It makes creating emails easy and includes tools to help you expand and manage your subscriber list. Read our in-depth Constant Contact review to learn how this platform integrates with programs like Excel, Salesforce and Outlook to help you quickly upload your existing opt-in list. 
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud: Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud platform seamlessly integrates with its popular CRM, instantly giving you access to your existing opt-in list. Read our comprehensive Salesforce Marketing Cloud review to learn how the platform helps you build personalized email campaigns and conduct A/B testing. 
  • Benchmark Email Marketing: Benchmark Email Marketing is a very affordable option that even provides a free plan with limited features for new email marketers. Our detailed Benchmark Email Marketing review shares how the platform helps you maintain your email list to improve delivery rates. 

Jennifer Dublino contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article. 

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Jennifer Post, Contributing Writer
Jennifer Post is a professional writer with published works focusing on small business topics including marketing, financing, and how-to guides. She has also published articles on business formation, business software, public relations and human resources. Her work has also appeared in Fundera and The Motley Fool.
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