If your email subscribers had to rate their relationship with you, would they say they felt seduced into handing over their email addresses with big promises and then abandoned because you didn't live up to your promises? Or would they say that they felt genuine regard for the relationship you established with them?
When it comes to opt-in subscribers, you have to show them the love right from the get-go if you want your email readers to stick with you for the long haul. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a list full of fickle subscribers who quickly break up with you (unsubscribe) and even go over to your competition.
Make them feel welcome and appreciated with a three-stage relationship-building program that not only does the equivalent of calling them the next day as promised, but also shows them how much they mean to you:
- Send a welcome email immediately upon confirmation that draws them into your program, reminds them what they signed up for and lures them back to your website with email-only offers or a chance to tell you more about themselves on a subscriber-preference page.
- Send a follow-up email a week or so later to see how everything's going, with more enticements to bring the newbie back to your website for offers or preference updating.
- Periodically keep in touch with special emails that go out to subscribers as the relationship matures, especially if you fall out of touch with them as the months or years go by.
Work that relationship!
Too often, your relationship with customers goes the way of any other long-term relationship: lots of excitement in the beginning, and then it gets routine. If customers aren't actively unsubscribing, you figure they still want what you have to sell.
Sorry! You have to work at email relationships just as hard as you do real-world pairings or risk losing the customer to apathy or boredom.
And what does a bored customer do? If you're lucky, she tells you to take a hike by unsubscribing. It hurts, but at least then you know where you stand. If you aren't lucky, she either ignores you and deletes you without opening, or reports you as spam, either because you make it too hard to say goodbye through regular channels or because she just doesn't care anymore how you feel.
In direct-mail parlance, this is list churn: how much of your mailing list turns over in a period of time.
The conventional wisdom holds that 20 percent or so of your list will turn over in a year, either because subscribers quit or abandon their email addresses without updating them. Bringing new subscribers on board quickly, making them feel wanted and appreciated right away, helps curb the tendency to wander away.
It can also help you boost your deliverability rate because it gives you another chance to ask subscribers to add your mailing address to their contact lists or to enable images if they block them. If subscribers expect your email and can recognize it by the sender or subject lines, they'll be less likely to report you as spam to their ISPs or email service providers.
The follow-up email is your second chance to get the subscriber back to your website, either to buy, download or otherwise interact with your company, to hand over demographic information that will allow you to send more targeted and relevant email, and to gauge their interest in your mailings.
Keep in touch
So, a few months have gone by since you heard from your regular customers? Time to find out what's wrong -- ask them to come back -- or have them cut you loose. That's what the third contact email does. It goes to subscribers who haven't opened, clicked or converted in a set amount of time.
Doing this will also keep your list fresh and reduce the deadwood that drags down your metrics, especially opens and clicks. Warning! You need to send this email sooner than you think. Subscriber interest can drop off 10-15 percent after the first 30 days, with open rates plunging 40-50 percent six months to a year later.
This email should have a special subject line, distinct from your regular email templates yet easily recognizable in the inbox. In it, you should let the subscriber know he's missed and offer incentives to buy or update his preferences, or give him an easy opportunity to opt-out, if that's what he prefers. Always give unsubscribers the option to tell you what went wrong, and take their comments to heart.
However, this effort will be wasted if you wait too long to send out that welcome email. Everything hinges on doing the email equivalent of calling the very next day after that first promising meeting.
Wendy Roth is the strategic account manager for Lyris Technologies. Read full bio.