Why opt-in is the best option
Electronic mail marketing is amazing. In minutes you can reach tons of people with extremely tailored messaging and you can embed all your calls to action right their in the communication itself. It's one of the greatest tools of the marketeer. But with great power comes great responsibility...
Electronic mail marketing is an exchange between sender and recipient. And like all great relationships, consent matters. By building your e-newsletter lists with opt-in, you are sending a clear message to the world that you value choice, control and consent. If you simply add email addresses to a list and rely on people unsubscribing, you are going against this idea and you are also much more likely to see less engagement with your electronic mail marketing.
Legitimate interest has to be just that - legitimate
Yes, legitimate interest is a thing and you can market electronically to existing customers. But using this 'soft opt-in' should be secondary to actually getting consent to contact someone in the first place. Opt-in will lead to higher open rates and higher click through rates. You will be sending your e-newsletter to people who actually want to hear from you.
Get to know the rules
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) says:
"You must not send electronic mail marketing to individuals, unless:
They have specifically consented to electronic mail from you; or
They are an existing customer who bought (or negotiated to buy) a similar product or service from you in the past, and you gave them a simple way to opt out both when you first collected their details and in every message you have sent
You must not disguise or conceal your identity, and you must provide a valid contact address so they can opt out or unsubscribe"
But like any rules, there are exceptions. Keep checking the ICO website for information and updates or seek support from a legal expert to make sure you remain compliant.
Trust your instincts (and the experts!)
If you feel like something may need double checking in terms of email communications, you are probably right. I often have a little niggle in the back of my brain (the best way I can describe it, sorry!) that I need to question legitimate interest or verify consent has been given. Sometimes it's nothing to worry about, but I always check. There's no harm in being overly cautious. And when all else fails, I ask an expert myself!
If you would like support getting your email marketing in shape, get in touch. I'm here to help with content ideas, building templates and planning your campaigns!