How to "woo" email subscribers

When working with clients, they sometimes bring up a new email marketing idea that they want to try out. Depending on the idea, I usually respond with one simple question: How would you respond if it was in your inbox?

Too many times, people look at their email database simply as a list that they can send offers to and hopefully get a good conversion rate from. What's often forgotten is that there are actually people at the other end of the email address who want to be treated with respect. By sending out mass mailings with little or no personalization, offering them something that they have no interest in, or sending them so much mail they can't get through it all, you are running the risk of alienating your customers. So the question then becomes, how do you avoid this and make sure that you are following the "Golden Rule" of marketing?

First, let's think about the newsletter and email campaigns that you sign up for. Do you notice how often they send you messages and whether the content of the messages is something that you want to receive? I sign up for most of my clients' email programs in order to be able to help them understand what I, as a basic customer, would think when I receive their various offers.

I recently read an article about how marketers should treat the welcome message as a "first date." This got me thinking. Email marketing is actually a lot like building a close relationship with someone. First, you have to find a way to get their attention in order to even ask them out. This might be through a partner, in-store promotion, website registration, or any number of other ways. Once they actually agree to go out on a date with you, you really only have one chance to impress them in order for them to agree to another date, or continue receiving your email campaigns.

Sticking with the relationship analogy, as a marketer you must realize that there are going to be times when you are going to disagree, fight, and maybe even take a break for a little while. So what does that look like in email? Let's take a look at these one by one.

If one of your users disagrees with you, that probably translates into an opened message that is then deleted because they didn't find that offer interesting for some reason. If you and your customer are "fighting," that will be more along the lines of them simply deleting your emails without even opening them because they don't have the time or energy to put into the relationship at that moment. Then there is the "taking a break" phase. I see this as when someone decides that they have been in the "fighting" stage too much lately, and it would just be easier to unsubscribe from your messages, rather than have to actually delete them every time without looking at them.

So that is the negative side of a close relationship. Obviously, there is something positive about relationships, which is why we continue to try to build them throughout our lives. These phases might be a bit different for each person, but basically we all go through something along the lines of dating, exclusively dating, engagement and marriage.

The dating phase in email marketing starts with the welcome message and continues until that end user is so engrained with your company and products that they would be crazy to go anywhere else. Maybe this is because they have built up so many club points through purchasing items, maybe they realize that you have the best products and customer services that they couldn't imagine using a competitor, or maybe they just feel a connection to what you are offering because it hits a personal chord with them. No matter what the reason, they become vested in your company and your business, but they still might look at other emails just to make sure they are getting the best deal.

The final and ultimate stage in the relationship cycle through email is what I call the marriage. To me, this means that no matter what or when you send a campaign -- it doesn't matter how many other messages are in that person's inbox -- they look at yours first. They know when your messages are coming, what day, sometimes even what time of day, and they look for it. Maybe they are in the market for something new that you offer. No matter what the reason, this is the kind of customer you want everyone on your list to become. They won't all get there, but the ones that do are those special customers that you should make sure to take good care of at every opportunity.

Remember, email is a relationship building mechanism; treat it that way. Even if you lose one customer, or you break up for a little while, there is still the chance of getting them back by getting on your knees, acknowledging that you didn't treat them the way you should have and that you want to make it right. Ask them what you did wrong so you can change in the future, and treat them the way they want to be treated.

Good luck and good sending.

Spencer Kollas is director, delivery services for StrongMail Systems.



Dana Schumacher
Dana Schumacher July 24, 2008 at 2:20 PM

I agree that this is a comparable analogy, but simply put.
Primarily the "dating" phase is a bit cloudy. Of course it starts out with a welcome email, followed by more emails. But what kind of emails are you insisting create this highly loyal consumer that wouldn't dream of going anywhere else? Multiple welcome emails?

Greg Oguss
Greg Oguss July 2, 2008 at 12:43 PM

the dating to marriage relationship is a decent analogy. but its sort of one-size-fits-all. I'm rock musician and cult author who's been told by many fans how much they look forward to my offensive emails littered w/ racist sexist, homophobic jokes and profanity. I wouldn't talk to a girl I was trying to wed this way. Though I have gotten in trouble w/ my wife over some "e-sluts" who have a crush on me.