In previous posts, we’ve discussed the essence of relationship marketing: it is not about selling or convincing consumers why your product is better than others – it involves partnering, collaborating and actively building value together with your customer. We’ve taken you through key components of successful relationship marketing, such as customer engagement and customer experience. You can see our most recent post on segmentation and customization here.

This week, we focus on rethinking the definition of opting-in, and explore why engaging with and activating these consumers is imperative.

A key enabler of collaboration and building value with your consumers is the process of allowing them to opt-in. For marketing purposes, opting-in refers to strategic relationship building vs. operational or compliance considerations.  

As we consider relationship marketing principles, it is easy to see why a critical resource for collaboration and building value together with your consumers is opt-in. Opt-in is often defined solely in an operational sense and from the marketer’s point of view: capturing email addresses or mobile numbers for building and executing to a customer list.

Consumer-Centricity is Key for Successful Opt-In Strategies

We take this a step further with a more customer-centric definition of opt-in:

Opt-In is a customer granting permission for marketing directly to them via email, mobile or other personalized vehicles, and in doing so, demonstrating confidence and trust that a marketer will understand, respect, and respond to his/her/their preferences.

When looking at opt-in as the process of gaining a consumer’s email address, it becomes purely operationally driven and passive, which is not the same as expressed consumer consent. If the individual has not granted permission, you not only risk creating a negative customer interaction, experience, or perception of your brand, but you also risk legal implications.

However, when looking at opt-in in a consumer-centric way, you are able to create hand-raisers – an audience that has actively granted permission for your message and invited it.

Opt-in, while definitely not a new concept, continues to be a jewel for building relationships. It is an indication the consumer believes in you and demonstrates some level of trust – with this foundation, you can focus on validating why the consumer has made a great decision to engage with you and/or use your product (and should continue to do so). This usually has fewer hurdles for a marketer in generating incremental revenue.  

Opt-In Comes With its Challenges

Opt-in is a simple concept for relationship marketing. It is not new, yet marketers often get it wrong:

Once a person opts- in, marketers fail to follow up and immediately validate why the consumer made a great decision to opt-in. It is critical for the consumer to immediately understand the value of their opt-in decision. This can be an offer or your promise for what they can expect. A consumer should not opt-in, then have to wait an extended period of time before they actually hear from you (beyond the confirmation of opt-in, or fulfilling an operational requirement). Additionally, opt-ins are an elite group – differentiated offers, services, or customer experience (i.e. service, etc.) should be developed for this group.

When a person opts-in, marketers pull the trigger on endless emails/messages, many of which may not be directly related to the consumer’s interest or context in which they opted in. Avoid bait-and-switch with your consumers.

Marketers fail to assess preferences over time and how they change for an opt-in audience. An understanding of how opt-in customers migrate in preferences (stated and potential) will enable teams to drive the most customer satisfaction and business return from an opt-in relationship. While this should be standard practice for any target audience, it should be an even stronger priority for an opt-in audience –this group is potentially higher in response and business value over time vs. non-opt-ins.

Opt-in is often used purely for the sale; it should also be leveraged to assess the pulse of your opt-in community, gather feedback and conduct satisfaction assessments. Learn together with your opt-in community. This is the essence of relationship marketing.

Digital may be the way the customer opted in; however, it may be just one part of how your consumers make their purchase decisions. Understand the role of digital in the opt-in consumer’s decision-making framework/journey. Digital may be an awareness tool, but a follow up in person/live experience may close the sale, depending on the audience.

Opt-in can bring tremendous value to your relationship marketing program when used properly.