4 ways to improve prospect opt-in and opt-out

Managing opt-in and opt-out for your marketing lists, programs, and databases is often seen as tedious, annoying, and a necessary evil.

But it’s actually quite a useful, strategic exercise if done well.  If you set things up right, your prospects will help you out by segmenting themselves into topics of interest, degree of interest, or many other things you’d like to know about them.  There are also some pretty significant negative implications if you make it too hard for your prospects and customers to opt out.

Here are 4 ways to improve your prospects’ ability to opt in and out of your marketing efforts:

1. Theme-based choices.

Offer multiple theme-based list choices for opt-in, and allow prospects to edit their subscription preferences at any time.  The more control they have over what they want to receive and when, the more relevant your campaigns will be when they receive them.  Use these preferences as segment lists and build campaign content to suit each.

2. Prominent links from emails.

Include prominent, obvious links to managing email preferences and 1-click unsubscribe at both the top AND bottom of your email templates, or even in the sidebar. There’s no better time to capture updated email preferences than when you’re delivering an email!

3. Prominent links from website.

Make it easy to find your email preference center on your website, too. (this is ours if you want to see an example) Make it easy to see, and link to it or embed it anywhere that makes sense: Contact Us pages, in your Resource Center, etc.

4. Ask in other places where it’s top of mind.

Offer your opt-in/opt-out choices as an optional field in other web forms and pages. We include our main lists as an optional multi-select field on most of our short forms.  If you can pre-populate with existing preferences via your marketing automation tool, even better! It shows you take your prospect’s preferences seriously.

    What other tricks do you use to keep your prospect data current and valuable?  Or how horribly dirty is your data? Is it affecting your campaign effectiveness?  Share your tales in the comments below!

    PIPEDA and Privacy Considerations for B2B Marketing

    We’re a Canadian-based company with Canadian and U.S.-based clients.  We use marketing tools from Canadian and American vendors. Moreover, we use a lot of Software-as-a-Service tools that securely store some of our business data and information “in the cloud”.

    So, like our clients and many Canadian companies in general, we collect data from our prospects and customers that could be stored and/or processed in a foreign country.  We’re not legal or privacy experts, so you need to seek appropriate counsel when dealing with these issues in your business.

    Because of our expertise in B2B marketing and automation tools, we are often asked about the significance of PIPEDA as it relates to business-to-business marketing (here’s a link to some great privacy resources for organizations on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website).

    We’re also asked about common and best practices with respect to the collection, processing, and storage of marketing data in the course of marketing and selling to other businesses (as opposed to consumers).

    For the sake of context, one of the big concerns for Canadian companies storing or processing data in the United States is the U.S. Patriot Act. The executive summary version is that the Act permits U.S. law enforcement officials to access any personal information about any individual without that person’s knowledge or consent.  The Act would enable access to personal information of Canadian individuals if that information was physically or electronically located within the USA.

    If you want deeper background reading on the subject, I recommend taking a look at the well-written FAQ page and more detailed Report on Assessment of Privacy Concerns Related to the USA Patriot Act published on the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s website.

    From the perspective of Canadian privacy compliance, any business collecting personal information needs to be aware of the implications of storing and/or processing that information in the USA.  Some Canadian companies seek out data management solutions that keep all personal information within Canadian borders, while others employ other risk management strategies.

    Here are the key considerations for Canadian B2B marketers

    Personal information, as defined in PIPEDA, does not include things like the name, title, business address or telephone number of an employee of an organization.  This is spelled out very clearly in a fact sheet about PIPEDA compliance on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website.

    Our advice to B2B marketing clients is typically two-fold:

    1. Seek expert guidance and counsel from your corporate lawyer and privacy experts
    2. Write a privacy policy for your website that includes explanations in clear, plain terms that:
      • your company is not collecting personal information which would be covered by PIPEDA
      • your company will only collect business information about an individual
      • as a matter of best practice and full disclosure (but NOT PIPEDA compliance), data collected through your website may be stored and or processed in a foreign country. (see the Privacy Commissioner’s website for more advice on disclosure)

    Is website visitor tracking going too far?

    This question was recently asked in B2B Lead Generation Roundtable, one of the LinkedIn groups I belong to. Some comments suggested “Big Brother” mentality, and some even suggested that the information has debatable value and is being oversold by solution vendors in the space.

    One person, Bob, even commented that the practice is intrusive and voyeuristic and that if people realized how much they were being “watched” while they visited your website, they would not be very happy. “Whatever happened to opting in,” asked Bob.

    Here’s my take…

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that there are different types of data being collected–some is Personally Identifiable Information and some is not.

    The notion of opt-in is not compromised. You still have to fill out a form telling me your name before I know your name. Until you do that, I may have anonymous data about what you’ve looked at on my website, how often, and for how long, but I can’t in any way attribute it to you as an individual. That means I also can’t contact you about it.

    That anonymous data has marketing value in aggregate. It helps me discover which content and tools are popular, and which are not. It helps me determine how well my website facilitates discovery of useful information. It tells me if I’ve put the right links in the right places, and if I have created content that aligns with how you are naturally behaving as a potential buyer moving through your decision-making process. Or it may tell me that you’re actually a competitor, or a job seeker, or that my AdWords keywords are sending me too many of the wrong kinds of visitors.

    Once you tell me who you are and how to contact you, then it becomes personal. Now I know what you are interested in, what you are doing, and when. If I’m a smart marketer or salesperson, I’ll contact you when your actions suggest you might want to hear from me. In fact, I will do a lot less intrusive cold calling because I’ll have many more sales-ready leads identified that are more worthwhile to follow up on.

    In my personal experience and opinion, the majority of people are less concerned about data being collected and more upset when that information isn’t used to improve how the information collector relates to and interacts with them.

    As an information collector, it is also important to think through what information you want to collect and why. The more context you can gather, the more relevant you can be if/when you contact the person. Ask where they are in the decision-making process. Ask what their role is. Ask if they would like you to contact them, and if so, when. You’ll be surprised how much information people will share willingly once they understand how you plan to use it, and how that will ultimately benefit them.

    How do you use visitor tracking information you collect to market and sell better?