In an effort to avoid "spamming," or bulk mailing of unsolicited email advertisements, some businesses have begun utilizing opt-in email services. This type of service simply means that the user has agreed to accept advertisements and information regarding certain specified topics, such as business newsletters, coupons for particular services, or messages announcing new products or sales events.
Opt-in email requires the target to opt-in by clicking a link, registering, or confirming his or her email address. Some advertisers even use a double opt-in email option, requiring at least two separate actions in order to receive a message or a newsletter, to ensure that no one can claim to have been spammed. Consumers are always free to opt-out of such mailings at any time.
Obviously, opt-in email advertising is far more cost effective than direct marketing via regular mail, door-to-door sales, or telemarketing. Paper, printing, envelopes, and postage can add up quickly. Door to door sales require paying out commissions. Telemarketing results in high long distance bills, often without great results, as consumers grow more and more turned off by such calls. Even if you pay a fee for opt-in email advertising services, it will still cost less than the continued overhead and expenses of these more traditional options.
While opt-in email seems to be the answer to quick, simple, inexpensive advertising, it may not be the perfect solution. Some businesses encounter less than reputable companies that simply sell collections of email addresses even though the owners did not actually agree to receive advertisements. Email addresses are frequently "harvested" from many different online sources, and lists are bought, sold, and traded frequently. It is difficult to know for sure how email addresses were obtained.
Most reputable firms will offer to complete the mailings for you, and send your ads out over their list. It is unlikely that they would give away lists that have taken such effort to compile. People who have actually agreed to take part in opt-in email are not easy to find. Compiling such a list takes a great deal of time and energy, because most consumers are leery of agreeing to accept ads, so this is something you should keep in mind when looking for a service.
Also, be aware that there are federal laws concerning advertising and spamming. You could get into trouble with the Federal Trade Commission if you do not follow all the rules precisely. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of email advertising -- even opt-in email -- or hire an experienced, reputable company to handle your advertising.