Opportunities to set clearer email expectations

I was talking to a friend of mine recently who took a new job. After just a couple of months, he realized that the expectations that were originally put forth during the interview process were not in line with the reality of the position. After performing this job for nearly six weeks, my friend received a written document with all of the expectations for the job in bullet format; it was more than five pages long. Obviously, this conversation should have happened well before an offer letter was submitted and the position accepted, but more times than not, these are the hidden surprises of life.

While it is fine for expectations to evolve and change over time, it is important that there is some type of discussion and consensus around those changes to manage expectations on both sides. That's what relationships are all about, right?

What does this have to do with email and digital marketing, you might ask? Everything; marketing is all about setting proper expectations. In the digital marketing world, there are numerous opportunities to set proper expectations with your customers, yet most companies don't. I can't tell you how many times I have signed up for a company's newsletter or promotional email and, not once, was I informed of what to expect from the program. What kinds of campaigns will you be sending me, how often are they going to come, and what will they look like? Don't get me wrong; there are some marketers that do this very well, but more times than not, it's an expectation management fail.

So where and how can you inform your customers, simply and logically, of what to expect? Setting the proper expectations up front can result in long-term program success. Consider the following:

During the subscription process
This is a great opportunity to show your new customer examples of prior newsletters, thus providing them a visual of all the great content they can expect to receive. This is also a time that many customers expect to gather more information from you and are usually more willing to read the additional details. It provides an accurate perception of the value to be received from the program.

Within the welcome message
If you are not currently sending out a welcome message, stop everything you are doing right now and go create one. A solid, well-thought-out welcome message is one of the most important campaigns any marketer will send on a regular basis. It is this message, and this message alone, that will set the tone and the direction of the relationship your organization will have moving forward, with each and every end user. It is within this message that you should remind people to add your address to their address book to ensure delivery. Also, remind them how often (and when) they should expect to receive mail from you so they can make sure that they look for the messages and open them.

Within each email
Your goal is to have each end user open all of your messages, right? Well, why not remind them at the end of each message when they can expect another one from you? And if it is getting to be your busy time of the year (think seasonal spikes in volume), let them know that too. Don't be scared to tell your customers, "Hey, it is almost that time of year again. Because we know you want to get the best possible offers during (insert season here), we might be sending you more deals" -- or something like that.

These are just a couple of possible places that you can communicate with your customers and set those expectations accordingly. Remember, if expectations are not properly set up from the beginning, your customers can easily unsubscribe from your mailings and then there is nothing you can do to save them. It will be too late -- just like accepting that job offer before you get the job description.

So treat your customers like you want to be treated, and they will stick with you. Good luck and good sending.

Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services for StrongMail.

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Comments

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis June 28, 2011 at 10:07 AM

If a customer has given you permission to e-mail them, it's very important that you don't abuse that privilege. People don't want their inbox cluttered with promotional fluff. There has to be a real reason for the contact. Spelling it out ahead of time means no one will be surprised.