Best practices generally begin as a response to a challenging situation. The solution is then picked up as a trend -- and before you know, it’s been promoted as being a best practice.
In fact, one or two of today’s commonly accepted best practices actually have less than honourable beginnings. These best practices weren’t created in order to solve a problem that marketers were facing, but were instead solutions to vendor problems.
Before using a best practice, I always advise my clients to ask themselves the following questions:
Let’s look at double opt-in as an example. My concern is that double opt-in is still cited as a best practice for countries that are governed by opt-in legislation such as the UK PECR Act. I feel that this tactic is unnecessary. By implementing double opt-in blindly, you stand a chance of losing up to 60% of subscribers who want to hear from you. And we’re not just talking size of database here, we’re also talking revenue.
A client of mine has an impressive subscribe-to-conversion rate of 40% -- so when you do the math, to lose 40%-60% of these subscribers would impact their revenue significantly.
But let’s start at the beginning and review how double opt-in first began as a best practice. Back in the old days spam was rife, everyone was emailing anyone they had an email address for, and deliverability problems ensued.
At that time ISPs couldn’t distinguish a permission-based marketing email from a non-permission based email, and therefore implemented “whitelists,” which ensured better delivery of your emails. In order to get accepted onto a whitelist, you had to prove that your email list was an opt-in list -- and the way to prove this was by using double opt-in.
Fast-forward to now. In Europe we have very stringent legislation that governs each of the EU states, and with only one exception (UK B2B), it’s an opt-in legislation -- meaning that you can only email recipients who have opted in to receive emails from you.
Because of this opt-in legislation, Europe has less deliverability issues than in the U.S., whose CAN SPAM Act is an opt-out legislation. Added to that, whitelists are no longer needed, as the deliverability community have implemented a far more successful way of determining who is a legitimate marketer using authentication and IP reputations.
I know many UK marketers feel guilty -- yes, guilty -- because they haven’t implemented double opt-in. Yet when they ask themselves the three questions above, more often than not they realize that it’s unnecessary to implement double opt-in -- and also that doing so could lose them revenue.
So my question to EU marketers is: Can you afford to lose up to 60% of subscribers and their associated revenue? Not many of us can -- yet this is potentially what’s happening when double opt-in is implemented without consideration in the EU states, simply because it’s touted as a best practice.
Take the following into account before implementing any best practice: the legislation of your governing country, the legislation of the countries you are marketing to, your business objectives, your customers’ expectations, and the quality of your email programme. Then make an informed decision, testing to see what works most effectively.
Best practices are not designed to be a one-size-fits-all solution. We as marketers need to take responsibility for choosing the best tactics for both our business needs as well as our customers’ needs.