You meet someone at a networking event. They are interested in your business and give you their card. Can you start sending them your email newsletters right away? Or should you ask permission? Bryony Thomas of Watertight Marketing debates the issue
Before we start, let’s declare a bias here, I’m a big believer in asking for marketing permission. I see gaining permission as a bit of milestone in relationship building.
But it’s not always straight-forward. If you go to a networking event and exchange business cards with someone, should you take that as a green light to add them to your mailing list for your email newsletter?
Let’s look at the pros and cons.
So how should you go about gaining permission from someone you've met at a networking event?
Having a system in place that allows you to politely ask for email permission as part of your networking follow up takes a little effort. But not a lot. After a networking event we pop the details of the business cards we’ve received in our database. We tag them with a code indicating they are to be asked for email permission. At the end of the month we email the tagged contacts giving details of our newsletter, a list of benefits and a link to previous newsletters the sign-up form. They can then actively choose whether to opt-in.
This doesn’t stop you emailing them as one individual to another, to ask them for a coffee or for their advice on something – that is indeed why they gave you their card, it just means that you don’t send them newsletters or offers by email.
Many people believe that if they don’t sign people up quickly after meeting them they will have missed their chance. Again, I don’t agree. There are other ways to stay in touch and gain permission when the time is right. We connect with interesting people we’ve met in many ways. We hook up on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter (we include links to the sign-up form in our online profiles), or meet them in person for a coffee. Each of these settings offer an opportunity to ask for permission and allows them to opt-in if and when they want to.
Don’t be afraid of a small mailing list. A small email list filled with interested and engaged people is much better than a vast list of people who really don’t care about what you have to say.
And, don’t be offended if people don’t sign-up, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like your company, it just means they don’t want your email.
Some people really do think that it’s OK to send you email that you didn’t ask for. I mean unsubscribe is pretty easy isn’t it? Well, no not always. For example, many people receive emails via their phone where unsubscribing is often a tricky. This means they simply delete the email, only to get it again next month.
It’s true that you can’t please all of the people all of the time but you can be sure to infuriate some of the people every time you assume email permission. As such, is it really worth it? Moving to an active opt-in might lose you a few people you may previously have captured, but it will gain you a more loyal and engaged audience in the long term.