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What if you gave your subscribers the power to choose?

Updated: Apr 30

In the past two weeks, I switched lives with *insert a name of your preferred local celebrity*, Freaky Friday style.

Myself and the other wonderful 13 women in my fellowship cohort have barely had a single day when we were left alone:

Visits to a local company followed by a swarm of drones. Workshops documented by a crew of photographers. Team breakfasts snapped by a flock of sneaky smartphones (oh, the embarrassing phallic positions that they caught some of us in!).

(Okay, I might be exaggerating just a tiny bit. Can’t help it - it’s in my blood!)

But those photos, videos, and reels were shared generously across social media, local newspapers and websites.

Alas, there’s a minor issue that has been concerning all of us, and one could see it on our faces without even saying a word -

None of us feels like we agreed to this.

Sure, we have signed a release form or two, giving the fellowship headquarters permission to take photos of us during the kickoff and closing events.

But being constantly photographed in our host community, during our 3-week stay?

None of us remembered anything about it, and the levels of uncomfortableness we have around this topic have been rising constantly.

So much so, that yours truly have been seriously considering flipping a finger or two to the next nice local photographer who tries to snap a shot of her.

I’ve always had issues with others taking photos of me, my dad could testify, but complete strangers trying to take photos of me? No, sir!

I mean, I totally get it. Who wouldn’t want to take a photo of me? Have you seen me recently?

All jokes aside, it’s been troubling me, troubling all of us, and it’s hard to wrap our heads around it.

“If you’re not paying for the product - you are the product”, said one of us after an intense photoshoot session with the local mayoress, a snarky smile on her face.

But does the fact that we’ve gotten into this almost all-paid fellowship makes it okay to waver our consent like this?

The problem with consent and email marketing

This issue obviously threw me into thinking about consent, marketing and emails.

Consent is a big topic in email marketing and one that is still not practiced well enough in many brands, still to this day.

“We gave you the option to have 10% off or get free shipping with your first order, so you have explicitly given us the right to bombard you with sales emails from now on - until you hit unsubscribe!” <- That’s exactly the kind of approach that so many eCommerce brands have.

And let’s not even dive into the atrocity that is the brands that don’t have an “unsubscribe” button in their emails, or ones that make you jump through hoops to remove yourself from their list.

That’s not how consent looks like in any healthy communication.

If email marketing is a two-way conversation, you need to give your subscriber a way out at any point, whether that way out is a permanent one or a temporary one.

But consent is something that has many faces and meanings to different people (and brands) - you can practice it in many ways if you just take a second to think about your subscribers on the other end.

Unfortunately, many brands are still thinking of the brand journey (hitting goals, making sales, acquiring new subscribers) rather than the subscriber journey.

Which is why so many people still cringe when you talk with them about email marketing.

A light at the end of the tunnel

But the future isn’t all that bleak.

So many professionals out there are working tirelessly to change this consentless reality.

You may have noticed the option to either snooze receiving emails from senders for 30/60/90 days or opt-out from an automated email sequence (without unsubscribing from the list altogether).

These are just two of the better ethical practices that brands start to incorporate into their email marketing strategy.

I encourage you to not only put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes but actually talk with them, as frequently as you can.

Here are a few questions to start with:

  • If you could choose your own email adventure, what would that look like?

  • How many emails are too many emails for you (per week/month)?

  • Knowing that we use email marketing to get sales, would the Pareto Principle (80% nurturing - 20% sales) be a good one to follow?

Note that the answer of your subscribers would vary. A lot. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask as many of them as possible and find a healthy middle.

Sure, your responsibility as a brand owner is to push the envelope. Get those sales. But remember that it’s much easier and cost-effective to sell to existing customers (or retain existing subscribers) than to acquire new ones (and nurture them until they make their first purchase).

Consent is tricky. There’s no one way to do it.

But not doing it at all is shooting yourself in the foot.

The more you talk about it, the more your brand is open to discussing it - the better you can cater to your subscribers. And if you haven’t done so so far, I encourage you to start today.

Like this piece? Share it with a friend or on your preferred social media.

Need specific guidance on how to infuse your brand’s emails with more consent? Book a consult with me (paid).

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