Stop Romanticizing the Double Opt-In
The single opt-in gives a higher ceiling if you know what you are doing.
Choosing the single opt-in (to confirm permission to send marketing emails) needs to be an informed decision. It’s inherently riskier because you are being much less strict about confirming accounts.
For example, If you’re promoting a welcome offer or discount in order to get a newsletter sign-up, you may be inviting an overabundance of short-term-minded leads who don’t care so much about your overall offering. They can present problems to your engagement rates and even spam complaints in the future, so a double opt-in may be in your best interest.
The double opt-in also increases your odds of having the % majority of your new signups be highly engaged and qualified from the get-go. The single opt-in, on the other hand, invites everyone to the party. That includes people who aren’t yet sure whether your product is a good fit for them.
The fundamental complaint I have with the double opt-in is that relying on a confirmation email has leakage issues.
You’ll always have a percentage of people (even highly qualified leads) who ignore or don’t see this prompt and you lose them for good. (They’ve moved on with their day or are busy using your amazing product and don’t need a homework task, thank you very much)
The prompt provides the user with a moment to second-guess your intentions from a marketing perspective, and a percentage will likely decide it’s safer to ignore.
If you are a competitive marketer, lowering your ceiling of leads right off the bat should drive you a little bonkers.
So, let’s circle back to why it needs to be an informed decision. It’s because by adopting the single opt-in, you are adopting a quantity-over-quality tactic from the outset and it needs proper governance to help it blossom into a fruitful database. You need to learn various skills, tactics, and monitoring methods to ensure that you are keeping your program healthy and to make that net positive growth (vs. what you could achieve with the double opt-in) worth the risk.
The fundamental complaint I have with the double opt-in is that relying on a confirmation email to get permission to send ongoing marketing emails to your users has leakage issues.
My Argument in One Simple Chart
In the above chart (for an imaginary company), you’ll see three segments. Let’s say this company gathered 1,000 registrations last month.
If they used a double opt-in, then the chart means that 60% of those leads confirmed their email. That would give them 600 mailable leads to work with.
But there will always be a segment of good leads who ignore the email confirmation step. If this hypothetical company used a single opt-in, they’d end up with 200 more good leads than they would have otherwise.
True, they would also sign up some garbage leads that will potentially threaten their database health through a combination of being ‘never converters’, ‘low openers’, and maybe even ‘spam button reporters’. In other words, there’s an increased chance of capturing a garbage segment when you do the single opt-in. In the above model, for simplicity’s sake, I’m putting this at 20%.
So, choosing the single opt-in gives you 1,000 mailable users instead of 600. However, you have a cost-benefit situation, where some will be a fairly healthy sample of users and some will be inherently dangerous to your engagement rates and deliverability over the medium to long term.
And if you’re thinking, “yeah, but the estimate that 20% of users won’t confirm sounds awfully high,” then you are absolutely correct. It could in fact be as low as 5% or something along those lines. But I’ll let you do the math yourself on what that 5% could mean for your business. If you determine that it’s not meaningful to the founders of your company, I’d be surprised.
Don’t Adopt a Single Opt-In Unless You Can Handle the Responsibility
Over the years, I have learned to segment responsibly, implement safeguards like preference centers, use empathetic and transparent language, and troubleshoot deliverability problems when and if they surface by doing proactive monitoring.
Here is a list of 5 things everyone who adopts the SOI should do:
You must have explicit language in your opt-in or registration forms. In other words, you need to make sure people know they will receive marketing emails from you. This is a legal requirement, but the care that you put into the copy also matters. It’s an opportunity to set expectations about the nature of the emails users will receive.
The welcome email (or whatever the first email is) should create trust by reinforcing what they will begin receiving now that they are on your list. With Grammarly’s most recent welcome email, we added an entire section dedicated to the preference center and setting expectations:
You need to have a proactive reputation monitoring strategy. We’ll cover what this means in future articles & courses.
If you send more than one type of marketing email, you need a preference center.
You need to have thoughtful targeting and suppression strategies. For instance, if someone has not opened or clicked on any email in, say, six months, then why are you still including them every time? Stop that immediately. Also, six months is arbitrary in this example. Use common sense based on variables like the frequency of emails and put yourself in the customer’s position.
Also, look at product engagement as another anchor point for determining when to suppress users and to qualify them for a win-back opportunity when you have something new and compelling to offer.
If you are a competitive marketer, losing percentage points of leads right off the bat should drive you a little bonkers.
The opt-in tactic that you choose is one of the most impactful decisions you can make. You must decide to be an email marketer who’s risk-averse or one who’s willing to take on a diverse set of responsibilities to manage the good, bad, and ugly. The payoff is that if you choose the latter and do it well, you’ll actually have a higher amount of both quality and quantity. In the above model, it’s a meaningful 20% lift.
You just have to be willing to develop strategies for the prereqs I mention above in order to prevent the garbage from tainting the potential of that 80%.
The choice is yours. God speed.
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