Earlier this week I was discussing the advantages and disadvantages of actively and passively sending out email campaigns to customers/clients. Perhaps I need to go back a few steps to explain…

In email marketing, there are two golden rules which help to keep the industry in check, and to stop it from descending into the realm of SPAM marketing. The two governing rules are –

1. All recipients of email campaigns must give their permission to the sender to receive campaigns

2. All email campaigns are required to have an unsubscribe function…that works!

With these rules in place, there is a clear distinction between what is considered SPAM and what we would call Permission Based Marketing.

Permission based marketing itself, basically falls into two categories, both of which conform to the two rules mentioned previously. Active Email Marketing Permission usually involves a sign-up process in which a potential subscriber receives a welcome email which has a link that can be clicked on to ‘confirm’ that they wish to receive further emails from the sender. This is also known in the industry as a double opt-in campaign.

Passive Email Marketing Permission involves the sending of an email campaign to a database that you have previously collected, and have permission to use, for marketing purposes. It is also given the name single opt-in.

It is probably the recipient and the reputation of the industry who benefits most from an Active Email Marketing Permission approach, as consumers decide whether they want to be part of your mailing list or not. This approach however, is disadvantageous to marketers for a number of reasons.

Active Email Marketing Permission requires an involvement from the recipient to confirm their subscription; this equates to work, or at the very least some thought and a commitment from the recipient to yourself. One major problem with this approach is that the marketer only gets “one bite at the cherry”. If the recipient chooses to ignore the request or does not feel that the communication is not relevant to them at that particular moment in time, they are lost to you.

This approach is not very well suited to the advertising environment in which we live in. It all has to do with the way our brains operate. Look around, we are all surrounded by passive advertising, but we have subconsciously tuned the perceptual filters in our heads to ignore anything that is irrelevant to us at the time. For example, if it were time to replace and old television that has broken down, the filters are switched off and your mind tunes in to all the ads and promotions that were once part of the background advertising “noise”. The Passive Email Marketing approach fits closer with the model of the world in which we live in, whether this environment is a good thing or not is a discussion for another day.

As a general rule, we as marketers strive to be customer centric, and would like to protect consumers from bad marketing practices such as SPAM. As long as what you’re sending is in the general sphere of interest of the recipient, consumers will be happy to keep receiving further emails. If you are way off the mark, make sure they have the option to remove themselves from your mailing list.