Dec 22 2008

Email Marketing Case Study: Running a Successful Confirmed Opt-In Campaign

One of our clients, Design A Mosaic (DM), wanted to start up its email marketing with postcard style promotional emails (about six a year) to communicate specials, discounts, and other product news to their customer base. As we discussed in an earlier blog post, email marketing is especially important to eCommerce sites, and one of the keys to effective email marketing is making sure yours is “permission based.”

Permission-Based Marketing

The phrase was made famous by marketing guru Seth Godin in his book by the same name. Simply put, if  customers give you permission to market to them, they’re much more likely to hear—and hopefully act upon—your message. The philosophy behind it is that it’s much easier (and more cost effective) to market to the customers you do have than it is to get new customers.

Design A Mosaic’s Dilemma

For the last eight months or so, DM had been opting people into its email mailing list. In other words, it asked people for permission to market to them through email (this is known as “single opt-in”). However, it also had an existing database of 15,000 customer email addresses (an email address is a required part of DM’s buying process). DM had three options:

  1. Forget all the email addresses from the 15,000-address database and just use the ones it had been opting in over the last eight months
  2. Add the 15,000 email addresses into the new opted-in database
  3. Run a confirmed opt-in (COI) campaign to the database of 15,000 email addresses and then merge those who confirmed their opt-in into the current opt-in email list

We recommended option number three, and here’s why. It all goes back to the concept of permission marketing. DM had done business at some point with the people attached to those 15,000 email addresses. If DM chose to ignore those people, it would no doubt be losing out on some past happy customers who would likely welcome getting updates from DM. If DM chose to simply add the addresses to its new opted-in list, the company would be violating the CAN-SPAM Act, because it would be essentially harvesting a database of non-opted-in email addresses. Option three allowed DM to ask its former customers for permission to keep marketing to them. Those who “wanted in” would need to “confirm” by clicking on a link in the email. Those who did NOT confirm would not be contacted by the company again.

We weren’t expecting a high number of conversions. But even if only one to two percent of people from the database confirmed their opt-in (which is pretty typical in this type of campaign), we’d be talking 150-300 emails—emails of customers who wanted to receive promotional messages from Design A Mosaic.

Our COI Campaign Strategy

  • DM wanted the copy to be short, yet compelling. I recommended offering some sort of incentive. If people signed up for the newsletter, they would receive a discount or coupon. DM liked this idea as well.
  • We wrote three different emails and crafted 18 subject lines from which the client could choose.
  • We decided to run a smaller split test first: one email with one subject line would go to 500 email addresses and another email with another subject line would go to another 500 email addresses. The one that produced the best conversion would end up being the control email for the other 14,000 names.
  • For the split test, we used the most recent email addresses from the database of 15,000, figuring these addresses wouldn’t be as likely to bounce since they were “freshest.”
  • In terms of email marketing vendors, there are myriad ones to choose from: Constant Contact, iContact, and MailChimp are three of our favorites. All three of these platforms have a policy against sending emails to non-opted in users, so we had to be very careful in adhering to their policies in executing this COI campaign.  In fact, Mailchimp doesn’t allow for COI campaign execution as we were hoping for and ended up using one of the other platforms.

The COI Copy:

Here’s Version 1:
Subject Line: Remember Us? Here’s a Special Offer


We want to take this opportunity to thank you for choosing Design A Mosaic to create your photo mosaic. Whether you gave it as a gift or kept it for yourself (or maybe you did both!), we hope you enjoyed the experience…and the memories.

Would you like to receive an occasional email from us about specials and other news? If yes, great! You can sign up by clicking the confirmation link at the bottom of this email. We promise that we’ll never share, rent, or sell your information with a third party, and you can unsubscribe at any time. (Privacy is important to us, too!) As a thank you for signing up before November 9, 2008, you’ll receive a 15% discount off your next Design A Mosaic creation. You’ll receive the coupon code once you sign up.

And if you’d rather not sign up, no worries. You don’t need to do anything, and we promise that we’ll never bother you again.

Best wishes,
Kevin Mann
Design A Mosaic

<confirmation link redacted>

Here’s Version 2
Subject Line: Stay in Touch with Design A Mosaic


Thank you for using Design A Mosaic in the past. We hope to be part of your future. Sign up now by clicking the confirmation link at the bottom of this email and receive occasional (about 6 per year) emails about our photo mosaic specials. You’ll receive a coupon good for a 15% discount on your next order just for signing up before November 9th, 2008. And please know that we’ll never sell, rent, or share your info with a third party, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Don’t want to sign up? No problem. Just delete this email, and we promise we’ll never bother you again.

Best wishes,
Kevin Mann
Design A Mosaic

<confirmation link redacted>

Results of the Split-Test COI Campaign

Here are the results of the split-test COI campaign: version 1 had a 5% rate of sign up and version 2 had a 4.4% rate of sign up.

Results of the Full COI Campaign

DM went with the better performing email from the split-test campaign (v1) and sent it to the rest of the database (around 14,000). The conversion rate was 4.3% (602 people). The client was quite pleased to add a total of 649 (600 from the full COI campaign and 47 people from the split-test campaign) to its existing database of 1000 opt-in email addresses. And we were happy with the results as well.

Thinking of Running a COI Campaign? Here Are Some Resources

Here are some useful resources to help you:

Constant Contact’s Confirmed Opt-In User Guide
Email Marketing Metrics Report—November 2008

Have you ever run a COI campaign before? What were your results like? What issues did you encounter? We welcome your comments!

Blue Acorn

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