Over at the Email Marketer's Club recently a member posted a question which resulted in 38 heated replies. The question was, is it OK to send a one-off email to people who have bought something from you but who have not opted in to receive email?
The person who asked the question said that out of 700,000 customers, only 200,000 had checked the box which said 'I am happy to receive marketing emails from you' (or words to that effect). So that meant they were sitting on half a million email addresses and it 'seemed a waste' not to market to them. He was thinking of sending them an email (just the one!), perhaps offering a free gift by way of appeasement. It was just too tempting. Surely worth a try?
There then followed a great deal of debate and opinion, ranging roughly from 'if you do so you will be a spammer' to 'you COULD try it, but it may reflect badly on you if people complain.'
The rules about what is and isn't permissible in email marketing, in the UK at least, are not black and white. The Information Commissioner's website has guidelines on the subject.
Nevertheless, in the above case there were no grey areas. Those 500,000 people had the chance to check the box and give their permission, and they did not. That means they don't want to get emails from this company, even 'one-offs'.
Rather than risk losing the trust and loyalty of customers, not to mention your company's reputation, why not focus on those 200,000 people who have actually given their permission? They are the real goldmine, after all. Use your loyal customer base to up-sell, cross-sell and refer their friends.