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Are opt-ins still relevant for e-mail marketing campaigns?

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Yes, but they aren't as relevant as they used to be because there are so many other factors that enter into the equation.

Consumers often don't even remember opting in and, even if they do, it doesn't mean they want to receive e-mails from you all the time or that they open the e-mails you send. While it's crucial to gain permission from consumers before sending e-mail marketing messages, the main factor that determines if they open them is if the e-mail has interesting content that's relevant to the recipient.

Today's consumers place very little importance on whether they've opted in. They evaluate each e-mail and ask themselves, “Is this interesting?” “Have I received too many e-mails from this source?” “Do I know anything about this company?” If the answer is “No” to any of those questions, then get ready to be labeled as spam instead of being unsubscribed—even if the recipient opted in the day before. Why? Check your latest e-mail and try to find the opt-out ink. Chances are it will be hidden. Marketers hide the opt-out, making it difficult to be removed from an e-mail list.

To the consumer, an opt-in is perceived as like a first date: There is interest, but no commitment. Unfortunately, many marketers believe it is more akin to a marriage—a commitment by the consumer to accept an unlimited number of e-mails with whatever offer or message the marketer wants to send. The value of a subscriber opting in has changed. Most marketers believe they have carte blanche to send an unlimited amount of e-mails to a prospect who opts in. Consumers, however, perceive the opt-in to be extremely limited; if they don't like the content or frequency, they file your address as spam.

John Murphy is president of ReachMail (www.reachmail.net), a provider of e-mail marketing services, solutions and advertising.

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