Email Opt-in Permission, Tradition, and Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler On The Roof

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I got a new newsletter in my email.  It was from the publishers of another newsletter I subscribe to. I hadn’t subscribed to the second newsletter. The email just showed up in my inbox, without my permission.

They didn’t offer the second publication as an optional opt-in permission email.

They didn’t ask me if I was interested.

They just opted me in to their new email newsletter, without my consent.


I sat there thinking “Permission! Permission!”  Then I got a mental image of Seth Godin warbling the song from Fiddler on the Roof, dressed in battered clothes, and holding a metal milk can.

Once I got that image out of my head (it’s a persistent one), I tried to unsubscribe.  The link worked, but the page was broken (it wouldn’t accept my request). So, not only was I stuck with a newsletter I didn’t want, the company was also breaking the US CAN-SPAM rules (which require that opt-out is offered, requires only a single link, and is free).

Ask first

If you’re going to start something new, ask first.  Tell people about it in your existing newsletter.  Or mention it on your blog.  Add it to the sign-up for your free ebook/ecourse, if you have one.  There are many different ways to announce and promote it.  Just don’t spam people.  Spamming may be “tradition” in some parts, but it’s not a good tradition.

Obey the law

And, as I update this in 2015, it’s now illegal in certain places (sadly not the US) to send an email without express consent.

Think outside your company

Adding subscribers to a new newsletter may seem like a great idea in company meetings (hey, we thousands of subscribers, surely the people who enjoy receiving one newsletter from us will welcome a second one!), but it won’t survive contact outside the conference room.

The right way to get permission

It is a good idea to offer your existing subscribers new content (after all, they do already like you).  Just ask them first.

In fact, ask your current subscribers before you tell the public.  Make it an early exclusive just for them.  Start out by putting the offer in a few issues of the existing newsletter.  Tell subscribers how useful the new one will be and give them some examples of what they will get from it.  “Sell” them on the idea.

If it’s relevant and useful, they’ll sign up. Once it’s up and running, repeat the offer semi-regularly, just in case the first newsletter’s subscribers missed the pitch the first time. That will win you fans (and subscribers too).

2 thoughts on “Email Opt-in Permission, Tradition, and Fiddler on the Roof

  1. Hi Jodi,
    Followed you here from the Problogger forum. Sending a newsletter to people that have subscribed to another newsletter is a very good way of losing your business altogether.
    If you subscribe to one thing, doesn’t mean you can be sent any old rubbish.
    As for un-subscribing, I have many times but still get emails from those marketers. Strange.

    • You’re right, it is ridiculous to think that an OK for one thing is an OK for all things. ironically, this one was from a marketing magazine (which ought to know better). Are the companies that don’t comply with your requests in the UK or in the US?

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