sendbuttonIf you have read our blog on what it means to be a white hat sender, and why it’s good for your brand, some of this may be review for you. However, the topic of properly setting expectations for your email program at the point of sign-up is worth writing about.

You might remember our slogan from the “Why White Hat?” article above–send the right message, to the right person, at the right time, with the right frequency. When all four of these criteria are met, we rarely see deliverability problems. So, how do you ensure that your email program is meeting these four standards?

Confirmed opt-in helps ensure your mail is going to the right person. Keeping track of what days and times your users open your mail can help ensure you are sending your mail at the right time. Setting expectations at the point of sign-up will ensure that you are sending the right message, with the right frequency.

Unexpected Mail

The number one cause of spam complaints is unexpected mail. This doesn’t simply mean getting a newsletter from some website you have never visited. It can also mean getting three newsletters a week, from a service you signed up for, when you thought you were going to only receive one. Or getting new product and feature updates, when you just wanted to receive daily deals. The point is, even if someone signed up to receive your mail, it is still easy to catch them off guard with unexpected or unwanted mail.

Setting expectations at the point of sign-up is the key to ensuring senders and receivers are on the same page from day one. At the very least, a sender should have a short one-liner clearly displayed at the point of sign-up stating something like this:

sign up example

A user entering their email here clearly knows they are signing up to receive a weekly newsletter. Now, it’s up to the sender to hold up their end of the bargain and only send the agreed upon weekly newsletter.

An even better option is to let new sign-ups choose their preferred frequency and content. It is unwise to assume that all of your users want to receive the same mail at the same frequency. Let new users select which types of mail they want, and how often they want it right from the start. Think of this as a very basic email preference center that is presented to new users at the point of sign-up.

Senders can also use their welcome email as the first opportunity to make sure new users know exactly what they signed up to receive. A simple “Thanks for joining! As a member of example.com, you will receive daily discount offers, and a weekly newsletter that will update you on new features and products!” can be enough to ensure a new user knows what they should expect.

It is a good idea to introduce new users to their email preference center as early as possible. The welcome letter is a great place to put a prominent link to a preference center. Users are generally very engaged immediately after signing up, so while you have their attention, why not let them tell you exactly what they want from your email program?

Remember, in order to prevent sending unexpected mail:

  1. Let new users know exactly what they are signing up to receive. This is the first step in a healthy email marketing relationship.
  2. Honor that agreement. This is the second step in nurturing that relationship.
  3. Let users know what you will be sending them before they press “Sign Up!” (Better yet, let them choose!)
  4. Remind them what they signed up for in the welcome letter.
  5. Guide them to set their frequency and content choices in the preference center.

For more tips on how to avoid spam complaints and nurture a healthy relationship with your subscribers, watch our short webcast, Grow Your Email List: Learn Best Practices to Gain Engaged Subscribers.



Luke is a software developer with a passion for solving tough problems. He's been tasked with building tools that automate and simplify the work of SendGrid's compliance and delivery teams. He loves that SendGrid encourages him to grow as a developer, and he hopes to pay it forward by doing everything he can to help SendGrid grow as a company.