Opt-in email is defined as an email that a brand sends after a consumer willingly provides his or her email address. Brands can collect email addresses in myriad ways, but usually they use forms on their websites as well as incentives, such as free downloads.

Think of it as a way to authenticate your email list. Instead of sending emails blindly to people who might not have any interest in your online courses, you’re spending time only on people who already know who you are and who want to hear from you.

What Is Opt-In Email Marketing?

Opt-in email marketing is a marketing campaign that uses permission-based email-collection methods to capture email addresses from willing consumers. Once you have a potential customer’s email, you can add it to a marketing list based on the customer’s position in the sales funnel.

For instance, if your prospect signs up for your email list during his or her first interaction with your brand, you might segment that consumer into a list that introduces your online courses and provides actionable tips for interested consumers.

However, if your prospect joins after buying a course, you could send emails about getting the most out of your course material or about applying the information you teach to the real world.

Opt-in email marketing isn’t just a way to capture email addresses so you can blast prospects with sales copy. In fact, that’s the worst way to use it.

Instead, use opt-in email marketing to nurture your prospects through the sales process.

  • Invite prospects to interact: Let your email marketing recipients know where to find you online, from your social media accounts to your blog.
  • Encourage customers to convert: Provide sound reasons why a prospect should buy one of your courses. Use real-world examples to illustrate your points whenever possible.
  • Follow up with prospects: If a prospect abandons his or her shopping cart or goes inactive for a while, reconnect with a nurturing email that reminds him or her that you exist.
  • Send promotions: Offer discounts and other promotions that encourage prospects to buy your course for the first time or to buy a subsequent course.
  • Set up your opt-in email marketing campaign based on your specific objectives. Every course creator has different goals, so you don’t want to copy someone else’s campaign. Instead, think of the goals you want to reach, then design emails that help push customers to help you reach them.
  • Gain brand visibility: If you want to establish yourself as an authority figure in your industry and make more people aware of your brand, encourage your email opt-ins to share. The more people forward your emails, the more signups you get.
  • Boost sales: Use promotions, bundles, and discounts to get people to finally hit the “buy” button.
  • Increase upsells: Encourage customers to buy multiple courses and other digital products.
  • Check on progress: Find out where your customers are in their online courses and whether they need any assistance or have any feedback.
  • Solicit reviews: Ask your customers to review your courses online. You’ll get backlinks as well as more brand visibility. Plus, prospective customers will feel more comfortable buying from In fact, nearly 85 percent of respondents to a study stated that they trusted online reviews as much as they valued recommendations from friends.

You’ll continually adjust your email marketing campaign as you gain more subscribers and measure the results. Even though you’re using an opt-in email approach, you can’t always predict whether customers will open, read, or engage with your emails.

Keeping track of key metrics can help.

  • Open rates: If customers don’t open your emails, you might need to create more compelling subject lines or introduce an incentive early in your emails.
  • Engagement rates: Customers open your emails, but they don’t do anything else. If this happens, add more attractive calls to action using freebies and discount codes. Get people to click on links through incentives.
  • Conversion rates: Do customers buy your online courses after reading your emails? You can track conversions through email and landing pages to figure out how well you’re converting.

Spam Versus Opt-In Email

Spam is a word, that you don’t want people to associate with your brand.

Unfortunately, even when you use opt-in email, your emails could be perceived as spam. It happens when you use overly promotional, salesy language, or when you send too many emails in too short a time period.

Additionally, if you don’t use the opt-in strategy at all, you risk your emails getting diverted to spam folders. If your recipients report your emails as spam, their email clients might automatically assume that everything you send is spam. That’s the wrong way to start an email marketing campaign.

So what differentiates spam from opt-in emails?

First, of course, is the permission factor. When you collected an email address, did you get permission from the person who owns it? In other words, did it come via a form or other email- collection tool? If not, you might not want to use it.

Secondly, were you clear about the types of messages the consumer would receive?

It’s easy to collect email addresses via a form if you promise rainbows and unicorns. Unless you can actually deliver rainbows and unicorns, however, you’re being disingenuous, and your subscribers will quickly catch on to your game.

When you collect email addresses through an opt-in form, make two things perfectly clear:

  1. Email type: What messages will the subscriber receive? Mention that you send insider tips and tricks, promotions and sales, or other content (but make sure it’s true).
  2. Frequency: How often should subscribers expect to hear from you? If you promise to email only once per month, but you send emails every day, you’ll get some backlash. If you follow those rules, you can separate your email campaign from the dreaded spam word.

A smooth opt-in process from start to finish will ensure that you are collecting subscribers who know what they are signing up for and who will be active recipients when they receive the content they are expecting. Delivering on promises made during the opt-in process and refining your strategy to send targeted mailings will keep your attrition rate low.

Opt-in email: Advantages

  • Preserves your email marketing reputation
  • Shows customers that you respect their privacy
  • Helps you email people who are interested in what you're selling
  • Saves you time and money by micro-focusing your list
  • Lets you be more targeted in your campaigns
  • Helps you build long-term, trust-based relationships with customers
  • Can boost your sales and product interest