I’m picky when it comes to my email. I only sign up for mailing lists that fit my interests and offer great content. And I’m quick to unsubscribe from emails that seem spammy or I can’t remember signing up for. This approach keeps my inbox squeaky clean and focused on my favorite topics: dogs, books, and hiking. 

Opt-in emails are one reason why I have such a tidy inbox. Businesses send these messages to people who have shown interest in their communications. Recipients who “opt-in” permit the companies to send them promotional emails. 

Opt-in emailing gives customers more control over their inboxes. It’s also legally required in many countries. Read on to discover everything you need to know to write strong opt-in emails. 

What is an opt-in email? 

An opt-in email is a message sent to people who have consented to receive promotional materials. Businesses only send opt-in emails to people who voluntarily provide their contact information.

 The process typically looks like this: 

  • A prospective customer visits your website and wants to learn more about your brand. 
  • They fill out a web form to sign up for your email list. 
  • You add the prospect to your mailing list and send them marketing emails. 

This simple process builds trust by letting customers control the content they receive. It also helps reduce the amount of spam in their inboxes.

Opt-in vs. opt-out emails 

Opt-in and opt-out emails sound similar, but there are a few key differences. 

Brands send opt-in emails to people who have already expressed interest. This process lets people choose whether to start receiving emails. If the person doesn’t opt-in, they don’t get any messages. 

Opt-out emails take the opposite approach. These messages assume consent until the recipient explicitly opts out of future communications. Companies often send opt-out emails to potential customers as cold — or unsolicited — messages. 

Opt-in email marketing helps companies create an engaged audience. When your subscribers opt-in, you know that they genuinely care about your content. 

By contrast, opt-out emails assume consent until the recipients actively say no. Some people may view these emails as pushy or unwanted, which can hurt your brand reputation. 

Legal considerations for opt-in emails 

Many countries have created laws regulating commercial emails. In the U.S., businesses must follow the CAN-SPAM Act. This acronym stands for the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003. 

The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial emails as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” This definition includes business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) emails. 

According to the CAN-SPAM Act, opt-in emails and other commercial messages must: 

  • Use accurate header information 
  • Avoid using deceptive subject lines 
  • Disclose that the email is for marketing purposes
  • Include a valid physical postal address
  • Give the recipient a way to opt out of future marketing emails 

You must also follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) if you have subscribers in the European Union. This law requires companies to get permission to send emails and sets strict rules about data privacy. 

Companies that don’t obey these regulations can face hefty penalties. Make sure you fully understand and follow all relevant laws before sending emails.

The role of opt-in emails in digital marketing 

Opt-in emails are a key part of any digital marketing campaign. They allow you to only contact people who have given their express permission. That way, you can build an email list of eager and willing subscribers. 

Opt-in email marketing also helps you personalize your messages. You can use your sign-up form to collect relevant demographic data. Many companies also let customers opt-in to receive certain types of messages. This information allows you to tailor your emails for the most impact. 

Best practices for opt-in emails

Building opt-in email lists can sound complicated and scary. You may ask, “How do I know if I have permission to send messages? What if no one wants to sign up? What if customers give permission but change their minds later?” 

Don’t worry. By following these best practices, you’ll master opt-in email marketing in no time. 

Keep sign-up processes simple and straightforward

Don’t make customers jump through hoops to join your mailing list. Follow these steps to make your sign-up process fast and easy: 

  • Explain what the subscriber is signing up for. 
  • Give clear instructions. 
  • Only ask for essential information, such as their name and email address.
Chewy pet toy brand email opt in
Chewy is a great example of a straightforward sign-up form. Source: Chewy

Chewy offers a great model of an effective sign-up form. They include a catchy slogan in bold font to grab the reader’s attention as they scroll down the page. Chewy also summarizes its email content in one sentence for easy skimming. Finally, Chewy only asks customers to share their email addresses so they can sign up in seconds. 

You don’t need a computer science degree to create your own registration form. Constant Contact has many tools to help you collect permission-based subscribers, including: 

  • Banner sign-up forms 
  • Pop-up sign-up forms 
  • Sign-up landing pages
  • Facebook and Instagram lead ads
  • Text-to-join options for in-person signups 

Email sign-up tools increase your reach by letting you offer more than one way to subscribe. 

Ask for feedback to improve opt-in email content

Feedback helps you continuously improve your opt-in emails. There are many ways to ask your subscribers for their opinions, such as: 

  • Email surveys 
  • Feedback forms 
  • Focus groups 
  • Social media polls 

Say you want to create more relevant content for your subscribers. You could send them a survey about the types of emails they enjoy receiving and ask them to recommend new content you should cover. This approach helps you tailor your content for your audience, meet their expectations, and make them feel part of your community.

Encourage subscriptions with incentives 

Offering an incentive is one of the best ways to get email marketing opt-in. The gift doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. But it should be something that your target audience finds relevant and valuable. 

Simon and schuster email opt in with free content download
This sign-up form offers subscribers a free ebook as an incentive. Source: Simon & Schuster

For example, the publisher Simon & Schuster offers new subscribers a free ebook. This exclusive offer gives potential customers immediate value when they opt into the company’s email marketing. 

Here are other incentives you could offer subscribers: 

  • Audiobook 
  • Discount or coupon 
  • Free trial for a product or service 
  • Online course
  • Webinar 
  • Video 

Let subscribers customize their preferences

Many subscribers only care about certain types of content. For example, a customer may love educational content but not want to read product updates. Respect these preferences by letting subscribers control the content they receive. 

For instance, you could allow subscribers to choose from these options: 

  • All communications 
  • Weekly newsletters 
  • Industry updates 
  • Exclusive event invitations 
  • Discounts and promotions 
  • Updates on new products and services 
  • Surveys and feedback requests

Giving options lets customers customize their email preferences based on their interests. They can adjust these settings as their needs change. This strategy increases engagement by allowing customers to receive relevant and meaningful content. 

Maintain subscribers’ permission over time

Subscribers can choose to opt out of your emails at any time. If you want to keep them on your mailing list, you’ll need to give them a reason to stay loyal. 

Creating compelling, high-quality content will help you maintain permission. Keep your audience engaged with meaningful content tailored to their needs. For example, you can send educational articles, exclusive discounts, and how-to videos. Producing diverse content will allow you to offer value to everyone on your list. 

You can also maintain subscribers by offering periodic rewards. These incentives could include free gifts, loyalty points, and access to special content. This technique gives customers a reason to stay engaged after they opt-in for emails. 

Types of opt-in emails 

There are two sign-up methods for opt-in emails: single and double. 

Single opt-in emails

The single opt-in method only asks for permission once. The process is simple. The subscriber fills out the sign-up form, clicks the submit button, and gets added to the mailing list. 

Single opt-in is the fastest and most accessible way to get new subscribers. Consumers can sign up in a few seconds and receive emails immediately. But this method could lead to spam complaints if consumers give incorrect or fake email addresses. 

Double opt-in emails 

The double opt-in email requires subscribers to give permission twice. First, they’ll give you their contact information. Next, they’ll receive an email asking them to click a link to confirm their subscription. If they don’t opt-in both times, they won’t get added to the mailing list. 

This approach lets you confirm that you’re sending messages to the right inboxes, reducing bounce rates. Subscribers also need to work harder to receive double opt-in emails, which increases engagement. But the higher barrier for entry can lead to fewer subscribers in the long run. 

Opt-in email marketing in practice

Opt-in emails offer many benefits for companies in all industries. They help businesses comply with the GDPR and other regulations. This method also makes it easier for customers to distinguish legitimate messages from spam. 

Elizabeth Spann Craig email opt in
This author places the sign-up form in the website’s header. Source: Elizabeth Spann Craig

Looking for inspiration? Study real-world examples of successful opt-in email strategies. For instance, author Elizabeth Spann Craig includes a banner sign-up form at the top of her website. She offers subscribers free ebooks, recipes, and other incentives. 

Target email opt in
This sign-up form entices subscribers with exclusive deals and ads. Source: Target.

Target is another notable brand that uses opt-in emails. The company offers subscribers exclusive deals and weekly ads. 

Designing effective opt-in emails and forms

There are many strategies and tools for creating effective opt-in emails. Follow these tips to get started. 

Use email and sign-up form templates

Save time by using templates to create your opt-in emails and sign-up forms. These layouts let you create consistent, professional designs in minutes. Look for a platform that allows you to customize pre-designed templates with your brand logo and colors. Constant Contact offers hundreds.

Place opt-in forms in the right spots 

Catch the attention of potential subscribers by putting your opt-in forms in the right places. Some companies put these forms in their website headers so visitors see them immediately. Other effective locations include the sidebar and pop-up boxes. 

Don’t forget to include a link to your sign-up form in your social media bios. This technique will help you attract customers who may discover your brand through Instagram and other platforms. 

Use pop-up forms strategically 

Popups can be a highly effective way to promote sign-up forms and get new subscribers. But you need to use this tool carefully to avoid disrupting the user experience. 

Keep popups simple and small so users can absorb them quickly. You should also include a noticeable “X” so visitors can close the popup and return to your website. Finally, consider creating exit popups that only appear when users try to leave your website. This method gives departing visitors one last opportunity to engage with your brand. 

Boosting opt-in rates

Many marketers struggle to consistently grow their opt-in email lists. These tips can help you achieve success: 

  • Research your audience’s interests so you can create irresistible offers.
  • Use case studies, testimonials, and other social proof to build trust.
  • Post consistently on social media to boost your online presence and attract more opt-ins. 
  • Organize giveaways to entice new subscribers.
  • Add calls-to-action to blog posts and other content.
  • Host virtual events and ask attendees for their email addresses.

Opt-in email and permission-based marketing

Opt-in emails are a core part of permission-based marketing. This strategy asks customers for consent to send them promotional materials. 

Permission–based marketing has many benefits. Asking consumers for consent builds trust and makes them feel respected. This approach also increases the quality of leads by letting you focus on prospects who have already expressed interest.

Empower your customers with opt-in email marketing 

Opt-in emails are essential for ethical marketing. This technique prioritizes consent and demonstrates that you respect your audience’s preferences. It also boosts engagement rates by ensuring you only contact people who are interested in your emails. Get started by creating a sign-up form for your website. As your opt-in email list grows, you can engage your new audience with compelling content. You can also design an email drip campaign to connect with subscribers regularly. With these strategies, you’ll empower your clients and build stronger relationships.