I love working out of coffee shops. The smell is delicious, the atmosphere is right, and the white noise helps me dive right right into work. Sadly, an unsolicited marketing email recently interrupted my perfectly-curated productivity.

The situation

I was working out of a hip coffee shop earlier this week. I ordered a flat white and a chocolate chip cookie (because I don’t think a greater breakfast has ever been ordered) and paid with my credit card at the cashier’s iPad.

I took a seat and got to work and within 5 minutes of placing my order, I received an email with the subject line: “BOOM! You’re on the list!”

Ahh! Boom…WHAT list??

I opened the email and the copy informed me that the coffee shop had my email from an in-store receipt or order, so I’d been added to their email list—and if I’m unhappy that this happened, I can unsubscribe below. If not, I can enjoy either a discount on my next order or free shipping on an online purchase.

One more time. What?!

With GDPR going into effect on May 25th and consented opt-in top of mind, I can’t let this example go undiscussed.

It’s easy to make mistakes with email etiquette but, fortunately, it’s easy to fix them! So, let’s dive into some key ways that this email could have been avoided and what could be done instead.

Don’t confuse sending a purchase receipt as an opportunity to opt someone into your marketing list

I know it’s tempting, but…Don’t. Do. It. Seth Charles from our Expert Services Team wrote an awesome blog post about the 6 different types of opt-in, perfectly titled: You Forgot to Say Please: How to Collect Email Addresses. In his post, Seth explains that pre-ticking checkboxes or assuming consent when you have someone’s email address is not the way to go. It’s actually a perfect way to get recipients to give you a spam complaint.

In my case, I was fine to receive a receipt for my in-store purchase, (which I did) but I was shocked to receive a separate email that was 100% promotional after never agreeing to receive it.

While I didn’t mark the email as spam (hey, people make mistakes) a lot of people will. A high spam complaint rate (.2% and above) will fast-track you to a poor sending reputation and deliverability issues, so be mindful of how you add recipients your list.

In this case, the coffee shop could have had a form on their iPad that asked me to sign up for their email marketing list after I made my purchase. This would have put the choice in my hands, not theirs. It’s an easy change that would have made a big difference!

Err on the side of your recipient, always

Put yourself in your recipient’s, or potential recipient’s shoes. You may want to tell them about a really cool new coffee you’re offering or an event you’re holding, but they may not want to hear it. The inbox is always invite-only. If you weren’t invited, don’t invite yourself!

If you write an email that says “you can unsubscribe if you want to,” you probably shouldn’t be sending that email!

Promotional emails should be a value add to your recipients. If you’re already apologizing for sending them an email and giving them a way to bow out, rethink your send.

Even when you have your recipient’s consent to send promotional messages, only send when absolutely necessary. Our 2017 Global Email Benchmark Report showed that on average, businesses are sending 8.1 emails a month to their recipients. That’s a lot of email!

How are you going to stand out in the inbox and keep your recipients happy? I bet it’s by sending exciting, wanted content.

Good news—if you want to grow your email list, there are lots of great ways to do so!

There is lots of pressure on marketers and businesses to build giant recipient lists. It’s a tough spot to be in because more people on your list should mean more brand exposure, right? Well, only if your recipients are opening and engaging with your emails!

If you just mindlessly add people to your list or do it without their consent, you won’t see this engagement. You’ll have a higher likelihood of seeing opens, clicks, and conversions if you have interested recipients from the start.

To help do this, we created a whole guide on how to add engaged recipients to your list. It may take a little longer than adding someone the minute they buy a coffee, but I promise, it will pay off for your program in the long run!

Everyone makes mistakes, just be sure to keep a consistent audit of your email program to ensure you’re on the up and up.

Hey [coffee shop that will remain unnamed], mistakes happen and I know you didn’t mean to overwhelm my inbox.

The good news is, you can fix your mistake! Go back and take a look at your email lists to make sure you added only consenting recipients and that they’re engaged. If not, implement a sunset policy and start removing these users from your list. Your deliverability and your customers will thank you!

And if you feel like it’s too hard to stay on top of all of the changes that happen in the email world around consent and deliverability, we have a whole team of experts who are waiting to help you. Give them a look and get in touch if you feel they could help you.



Jillian Wohlfarth
As SendGrid's Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.