The Tricky Case of the Passive Sign-up

True story: I just looked in my spam folder for the first time in several months. What I found there was quite surprising to me: a long list of email offers that I had opted into, either through site interactions or somewhere in the process of achieving some other goal.

Are passive sign-ups a good idea? It seems so easy and convenient to bring people into the fold in this way. You’ve got something they want - a free download, a product trial, etc - and they opt into your newsletter as a way to get a great deal.  Most people don’t think too much about giving out their email address, even knowing they are signing up for promotional offers. The trick here is not to collect email addresses but rather to attract the type of person who would appreciate your newsletter. Passive sign-ups are usually only a good idea if what you have to offer via your newsletter is similar to what motivated the sign-up in the first place.

What next? Well, if you’re anything like the companies who landed in my spam box, you just start sending immediately, full throttle. However, this probably isn’t the best tactic when you are dealing with readers who haven’t actively chosen to be a part of your readership yet. Yes, they gave you their email address, but they are not emotionally invested in your emails. Before you start sending to these new readers, check and make sure that they actually want to be on your list.

Remember the double-opt-in? This is the prime time to break that out. Your first email might read something like: “Thanks so much for signing up for our newsletter via our free offer. We’ve got a lot of great stuff to offer you. Please click the subscribe button below to confirm that we’ve got the right address.” At the very least, sending out a perfunctory email with an acknowledgement of their sign-up, a brief statement of what you have to offer and instructions for changing their subscription status can go a long way in making sure that your sending reputation doesn’t take a beating from uninterested readers just hitting the spam button and going on with life.

It’s true, you might lose a few email subscribers if you do this, but you will benefit from having actual readers on that list. A self-selecting list helps to prevent you from sending to the spam boxes of readers who never add you to their contacts or who simply mark you as spam to get rid of the unwanted emails. On the bright side, these passive sign-ups may be a turning point, bringing in loads of readers who definitely want what you have! It’s up to you to know if that is the case for your newsletter.