An Interesting (But Still Poor) Method to Ask for Permission

A few weeks ago, I received an email with what I would call a pretty weak subject—”NMFN’s Financial Strength.” Even though I was not expecting this email, I still opened it as I recognized the “from” name, John Haywood.

The email itself was pretty terrible. The only real call-to-action was the attached PDF. Attachments in a mass mailing? Red flag! Near the end of the email, in bold was the following:

“Your transmission of electronic mail to this address represents your consent to two-way communication by Internet e-mail. If you received this in error, please contact the sender and delete the material from any computer on which it exists.”

A couple of things jumped out at me. First—and not really critical—”Internet e-mail”? Huh? I’m pretty sure that since the turn of the millennium, we just refer to it as “email.” Anyway… Second, I’m not sure that I “received [the email] in error,” but I certainly never gave John permission to email me at work.

However, I thought nothing of this odd non-permission-based email and simply dumped it in my trash folder. But, nine days later, I got this:

I immediately recognized the sender—John Haywood again—which led me to open the message. However, as an email marketing account manager, I was especially intrigued by the subject line “Action Required for Subscription Confirmation – Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.” My initial reaction was that at least the subject was clear, direct, and actionable.

1. “Thank you for your interest in News Brief…”: I never indicated that I was interested! This does not count as explicit consent (opt-in).
2. Two links – Confirm or Decline Subscription: I like this part. Clear and to the point.
3. “Note: This final confirmation step….”: I like that this section tells me what will happen if I “confirm” or “decline”; however, what happens if I do nothing? What if all I do is open the message? What about if I had just deleted without opening? What about if I marked it as spam? Will they count this as a confirmation? (I chose to “do nothing”—let’s see what happens next!)
4. Privacy Policy: The privacy policy does a nice job of explaining my rights, but is a bit confusing. Their definition of opt-in “requires that a person or entity request to be included on an email list.” Based on their own words, I never opted in!

1. Permission is easy: Ask for it. Make sure you get it (explicitly). Double check to ensure they were serious (confirmation). Welcome them.
2. Be explicit: Tell me why you are emailing me, how often you’ll be sending, what it will look like, and how I can unsubscribe.

—DJ Waldow of Bronto Software