Transparency and Permission: An Inbox Insurance Policy

Posted by Dale Langley on

I’d like to start with a true story. Last Sunday evening I was just finishing cooking dinner when there was a knock at the door, upon opening it a man told me, “I’m terribly sorry but I’ve just reversed into your car”. After a brief conversation, I found out he lived just down the road and agreed to meet up the following day to swap insurance details.

So what’s this preamble got to do with my marketing program, I hear you ask? Well, I’m not worried about resolving the claim; it was clearly his fault. What I’m not looking forward to however is what will inevitably happen next.

My wife had a similar experience two years ago and after the insurance company got involved, she started getting phone calls from various lawyers offering their services for personal injury claims. Not only that, my wife gave the insurance company her mobile number in case she couldn’t be contacted. Since then I have been getting the same SMS message every week. “We’ve been trying to contact you regarding your accident. You may be eligible for compensation. Reply CLAIM to proceed or STOP to opt-out.” Of course, replying “STOP” doesn’t stop the messages because the messages all come from different numbers. Then there are the emails from claims management companies and injury lawyers that appear on a regular basis.

You can imagine how much I’m looking forward to going through that again!

My point here is that I didn’t request that these companies contact me. I’m not even named on the insurance policy! I’ve no doubt that buried somewhere in the small print of our insurance contract is a statement that says in the event of a claim, our details will be passed onto third-parties… but I didn’t request this. Isn’t this harassment?

We’ve talked about this for a long time; don’t assume that because someone is purchasing a product from you that they would like to also hear from other companies you are associated with and if you’re going to use partners as lead generators, be transparent about where you obtained peoples details. Be aware too of the damage that could be caused to your own brand if you start annoying your customers by sharing their details without obtaining affirmative consent.  According to a study by Merkle 75% of subscribers choose to opt-out of email because of lack of relevance and 55% of promotional email is deleted without even opening. If your brand becomes associated with irrelevant and numerous promotions you’ll find it increasingly difficult to retain subscriber loyalty.

If you frustrate your subscribers by sending them emails they didn’t expect to receive, they’ll simply click the “this is junk” button. Such negative feedback will harm your Sender Score and, in turn affect Inbox Placement Rate (IPR). To make your email marketing program work, you need to provide a great experience and that experience begins with setting their expectations.

Set expectations early and often. Will you contact them by email, phone or post? Remember, your subscribers are busy people and their inboxes are full of material so tell them how often you will contact them and how they can recognise your emails.

Provide a call to action. If you send a confirmation email, instruct your subscribers to click a link to confirm their subscription. If your messages land in the spam folder, ask your subscribers to move your emails to the inbox and add you to their safe senders list. Ask your subscriber’s permission if you plan to pass their details onto other parties. Remember that with the new EU data protection reforms coming into effect soon, you should also be getting the consent of website users to use cookies too.

ISPs now offer disposable address which some people to use to determine if anyone has sold their email address.  People make use of the ISP’s support of “plus” addressing as described here for Hotmail and here for Gmail.  For example, at the point of signup I now make sure that I use a unique email address for each site, something like dalelangley+carinsurancesite@mydomain.com then it becomes clear if the owners of that site are sharing my details and gives me enough information to complain if I believe my permission has been taken for granted.

In conclusion, I had a bad experience with my previous insurance provider, and switched insurers as a result of how they dealt with my details. I’m not unique in how I judge companies. My advice is to take advantage of the ways that your subscribers can provide feedback about your email program, as well as to be honest and clear about the data that you collect and how you use it. Let subscribers change and enrich the data that you hold and shape their own experience of your brand. With a little effort, you’ll reap the benefits.


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About Dale Langley

As a consultant to Return Path’s clients helping them adopt the latest email best practices, Dale's background in mailbox provider system development led to his specialization in mailbox provider start-ups, infrastructure, and subscriber engagement. He can be found regularly presenting seminars, talking about the latest trends in email marketing and de-mystifying the murky world of deliverability. Find him at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/dalelangley and @Email_dale on Twitter.

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