There's a pretty interesting discussion going on over on HBR based on a post Ruth Stevens wrote about using opt out vs. opt in for B2B email marketing. As you can imagine, I'm not a fan. Strangely, the comments on the post are mixed.
Here are a few reasons I'm against it. Opt out is:
- Disrespectful of my time.
Yes, making me go through an unsubscribe process because you chose to send me something I didn't request is using up my valuable time and not endearing you to me. Not one iota. And I'm not alone. Chris Brogan doesn't like it either. Neither does DJ Waldow at Blue Sky Factory.
For some reason, B2B companies think buying a list is the way to gain access to people who don't know you and haven't consented to hear from you. Like they'll all become instantly enamored when they do. Ahem.
When you decide you need more leads, you need to go earn them. Lead generation is not something you get to decide. Irritating people, training them to hit delete or designate your messaging as spam is not the right tack. Lead generation is extending an invitation to people to choose to interact with your company because you provide them with something valuable in exchange.
This is one reason why inbound marketing has so much potential as a lead generator. By spreading your content and ideas around freely, you can entice people to spend more time with your company and then make a conscious decision to offer up even bigger chunk of their attention by opting in for more. This is what I mean when I talk about contagious content in my book.
I read an article over on DemandGen Report, Even High Performing Marketers Struggle with Content, Alignment, that shared the results of a survey that found "less than one-quarter of BtoB marketers say they’re generating enough demand to satisfy their sales teams." This is not a reason to use an opt out policy in a weak attempt to pump up demand by focusing on quantity over quality. Due to the reasons I stated above and, well, quite frankly because it will backfire.
This may be causing part of the problem. The survey also found that:
"Less than half (46%) have developed buyer personas to guide communications and sales readiness for their prospects."
If marketers don't know enough about their target markets to create content that interests and connects with them, buying lists and opting in people isn't going to work. Even if they do garner some initial attention, it won't amount to much because their communications efforts won't have the stamina to consistently captivate audience interest.
So, here's the thing. Cultivating leads takes time and effort. It takes generosity and caring and a mutual exchange of value. Only then can B2B marketers build relationships with leads that have a prayer in heck of becoming sales opportunities.