There is no doubt among serious email marketing professionals: Permissions-based email lists–in other words Opt-in email lists–clearly provide the best returns if you are wanting results. And who doesn't want results, right?

Many email marketing newbies understand the inherent power of email marketing, but have horribly mistaken assumptions about how it works and why it works. As a result, it's easy to waste thousands of dollars in precious marketing resources on bad email strategies, illegal sending methods, ineffective bulk email software technologies, and non-permission-based email lists that just don't bring in sales.

Why are opt-in email lists effective?

It is pretty safe to say that opt-in email marketing lists are the only effective email lists for selling goods and services. But even an opt-in email list can be abused, and become ineffective at closing a sale. In short, for maximum effectiveness, there must be two factors present:

Nevertheless, the CAN-Spam Act contains requirements that must be met by all mailers regardless of existence of a prior business relationship with the recipient. All companies that send commercial email must:

  • A pre-existing relationship with the publisher making the offer.
  • An offer geared to a highly targeted readership that is already inclined to be interested in it.

Pre-existing relationship is important

The relationship of the reader to the publisher makes an enormous difference in the success of the sales offer. When a product or service is offered to a list that is not familiar with the person making the offer, there will invariably be a low click-through-rate (CTR). Of those that actually do click through to the destination page, even fewer will actually be motivated to purchase the product or service.

Why? The reason is human nature. We all want to buy from people we trust, or with whom we feel like we have at least a bit of a relationship. There are just too many emotional barriers to overcome in cold selling to a list that is not familiar with the offerer; not the least of which is that your email will probably be unwanted and possibly illegal, given the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act.

The bottom line for permission-based mailing to an optin mailing list is that you need to have a relationship with the recipient. So your job as a marketer is not just to get permission to be in a reader's inbox, but to build a genuine relationship with the reader that will open up the door to future sales opportunities.

Targeted emails to readers

This is really such an obvious point that it almost goes without saying, but there are definitely many marketers who don't understand the importance of highly targeting an offer to the audience. Targeting your offer to your opt-in email list readers is critical to getting a respectable conversion rate. One of the most often-made mistakes in email marketing is not sufficiently targeting the offer to the audience. The trusting relationship between a list member and a publisher makes little difference if you're trying to sell snow shovels to a list of avid quilters.

If you do not target your email to your readers sufficiently, you risk not only a poor conversion rate to your sales offer, but a high opt-out rate for your list.