Best practices for confirming opt-ins

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Customers or prospects who sign up to receive e-mail messages from you deserve something in return: a confirmation. It should come in the form of a triggered e-mail, a message that goes out automatically and immediately. By following a few simple rules, you can ensure that you not only keep that customer, but keep him or her happy, too.

Michael Haggerty, managing partner of political consulting firm Trellon, and David Herscott, managing director of interactive agency MEA Digital, provide these tips to help you do just that.

  1. Don’t assume anything. If you’re using HTML or some sort of rich media in your e-mail, some subscribers may be missing out on your message because their e-mail programs strip out all HTML, form code, Flash and audio files. "What we recommend to our clients is to insert a line that says, ‘If you can’t read this message, click here,’" Herscott said. "If you’re sending out a triggered e-mail and people can’t read it, it’s a problem."
  2. Provide plenty of details. Your triggered message should act as "CliffsNotes" for your subscriber, Haggerty said, providing everything they need to know in that single e-mail. "You should have details about your organization’s mission, a reference back to what they signed up for and complete contact information for your company, including a physical address, e-mail address, telephone number and complete details about unsubscribing," he said.
  3. Always confirm registration. Take the double opt-in route and you can’t go wrong, Herscott said. That means you’ll need to create a landing page so people can click through and confirm their subscription. Keep it simple, though; asking subscribers to click too many buttons or fill out too many forms may turn them off.
  4. Provide links to established content. The minute someone opts in, they become a hot prospect. Take advantage of this by going after them with a soft sell, Haggerty said. Think links to product information, white papers and sales contact information.
  5. Save your links. Your e-mail confirmation may be used one month or one year down the line when subscribers need to change their e-mail address or preferences. That said, if they click on one of the links embedded only to find a dead link, you may lose them completely. "Companies have to keep better track of the URLs they are using," Herscott said. "If they end up changing or moving a page, they should use redirects so their customers can follow along."
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