Inbox Hero - Jon May

Email Marketing Expert and author of 'Send Better Emails'

Forcing readers to subscribe, turns them into a hostage

You’ve got a great website and you’re offering free downloads in exchange for an email address? Seems like a good idea so far.

But some websites force readers to sign up to a newsletter to get the download, under the guise of “we can only email it to you” - like you can’t download anything anymore! Gone are the days of freebies on floppy discs that came bundled with magazines.

These subscribers are hostages. They didn’t want to be on the newsletter, they just wanted the shiny free thing.  They never gave explicit consent, the key requirement under the new data protection law for marketing messages.

I can hear people shouting the words 'legitimate interest' (the boring legal term for "I couldn't be bothered to do GDPR so I stuck everything down as 'legitimate interest'") down the internet cable, but where it it's not less intrusive, you can't use it - so for newsletters and marketing communications you will 100% need explicit consent, get back in your box.

They’ll never be a super-engaged read-every-email and buy-all-your-stuff audience. They’ll be a never-opening, mark-as-spam audience, which will hurt you with the people who actually do want to hear from you!

Got a free download? It's OK to email it to them with the thing they asked for. Just don't make them sign up. Follow up a day later asking how they found the download and giving them the link to subscribe or update their preferences if they want to join your newsletter.

Giving content to people who want is great! Forcing people who don’t want to will always be a terrible and illegal idea.