All e-mail experts tell e-mail marketers to make their programs more relevant to increase deliverability and ROI (define) and decrease spam complaints, unsubscribes, and inactivity.
Nobody can argue with that. The problem comes when you try to figure out what "relevance" really means.
Relevance is still a challenge because we haven't been able to get rid of the guessing game between subscribers and senders:
To end this guessing game, you have to go back to the beginning of the relationship and improve your acquisition process.
Anticipate and Answer "What's in it for Me?"
We know how much delivery success depends on setting and managing expectations at the start of the e-mail relationship and sending relevant e-mails.
Here, "relevance" is defined as "value to the subscriber." It isn't enough that the e-mail message comes from company X. The company X e-mail has to offer subscribers something they want or expect.
These values (i.e., demonstrating relevance and managing expectations) have to happen even earlier in the subscriber relationship: at acquisition, even before opt-in. This crucial period is when your subscriber is still in the prospect stage, before providing an e-mail address.
Potential subscribers are asking you, "What's in it for me? Why should I give you my e-mail address when I get more than I can read now?"
A good acquisition process actually answers this question twice: once before the opt-in and once after it.
Here are a couple of tips to increase relevance:
Acquisition Evolves Off the Web Site
Your acquisition process should anticipate and answer the question of "What's in it for me?" everywhere you issue an invitation to subscribe, whether it's on your home page, search engine landing page, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter home page, or checkout page.
Offsite Acquisition's Unique Permission Challenge
Effective follow-up in the form of a welcome e-mail that sets expectations is even more crucial when the acquisition happens somewhere else. Besides, most offline acquisition completely lacks data the marketer can use for sending relevant messaging.
A mobile opt-in collects the e-mail address and acquisition opt-in, but nothing else. You need a welcome e-mail that repeats and amplifies the value proposition, sets expectations, and drives the new subscriber back to your preference center to provide more information and promote your e-mail offerings.
Remember, the only thing that has changed here is where the subscriber opts in to your e-mail program. Choice and control must remain with the consumer to deliver the relevance that drives e-mail deliverability.
Until next time, keep on deliverin'!
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Stefan Pollard, who started his career in online marketing in 1999, was considered a selfless mentor and champion of best practices in e-mail marketing. He held the position of senior strategic consultant at Responsys where he was responsible for developing e-mail marketing and lifecycle messaging strategies to increase clients' ROI. Before that, Stefan led the e-mail consulting program for Lyris clients, frequently speaking at industry events on best practices. Prior to that, he managed the audit process and consulted with clients to improve their e-mail delivery challenges for Habeas. As an e-mail marketer, he spent several years building and executing acquisition and retention campaigns at E-Loan and Cybergold.com. He died May 14, 2010.
In Memoriam: Stefan Pollard
E-mail marketing community mourns the loss of a marketing pro dedicated to helping his peers and clients and working to improve an industry. Here are their tributes celebrating his life.
E-mail Marketing Expert Stefan Pollard Dies
An expert in deliverability is remembered as a champion of best practices and someone who selflessly gave of his time to others.
December 5, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT