Handing over an email address does not an opt-in make

Any post on growing your mailing list will tell you to remember to get people to sign up in person, when they’re in your store and at your events.

As with most growth strategies, this is easier said than done.

People who sign up to your list via a subscription form have visited your blog or your website, they’ve shown an interest and made a conscious decision to sign up to your mailing list. They might not have made a purchase, but they’ve shown intent.

People who visit your store or events have visited you, they’ve shown an interest, and made a conscious decision to sign up to your mailing list.

They may also have:

a) made an impulse purchase/returned something they no longer want

b) come with a friend or shown up for the free food/booze (if it’s an event)

c) signed up because they felt sorry for the poor sucker who’s manning the mailing list

d) felt obliged to sign up simply because you asked them too and you can’t “Close” a person the way you can a pop-up subscription form

e) written their name down weeks ago and forgotten about it by the time you captured the emails in your mailing list

I think it’s even more important to stick to a double opt-in when people sign up in person. When people sign up via your subscription form, you usually send them an automated confirmation message. You can do the same thing with in-person sign-ups, especially if you usually wait a few days before adding these new contacts to your mailing list. Send them a confirmation email with a reminder message (“Hi, you signed up to our mailing list at our event last week. Please verify your email address by clicking here. If you’re not interested in receiving communication emails from us, please ignore this email.”)

The same practice can be applied to email addresses you get at industry networking events, tradeshows and conferences.

Any email you acquire at an event is not necessarily someone to add to your mailing list. At events, people either give you your email address because they’re interested in your product or service, but often it’s because they’re interested in you as a business contact. Don’t just capture every email on your mailing list, evaluate why they gave your email address first. It might be better to send them a personal email first, and you can always include a sign-up link for your newsletter in the email. Also remember that the participant or attendee email lists provided by event organizers have NOT opted in to your mailing list! You may send them a private email inviting them to sign up for your mailing list, but it’s not okay to add them to your list without getting explicit permission. (That is, unless the organizers have provided opt-in sections on their sign-up list and you can prove that these people have in fact opted in to your mailings.)

An interest in your product and handing you their email address, unfortunately, does not count as an opt-in sign up. It is only a sign-up when the person handing you their email has given you permission to send them email marketing emails.

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