Home  › Marketing › Strategies

Conversion Is a Personal Choice

  |  January 16, 2001   |  Comments

Keeping track of your readers' preferences for HTML or text-only email newsletters can be daunting. But honoring those preferences may be an even bigger challenge.

Keeping track of your readers' preferences for HTML or text-only email newsletters can be daunting. But deciding to honor those preferences may be an even bigger challenge.

When someone shares his or her preference on how he or she wants web or email content displayed, it's a good idea to respect that person's wishes and provide content the way it was requested. I know it sounds like common sense, but in this sometimes wacky world, web site managers don't always do what makes sense.

If a web site asks a user if he or she prefers story links sorted alphabetically or by date and then doesn't honor that preference, would you expect that user to continue to visit the site? Probably not.

But site managers are tempted to change newsletter subscribers' preferences from text to HTML format because studies show that click rates are higher for HTML-formatted newsletters. It's only natural to believe that converting subscribers' preferences will increase response.

However, there are many people who prefer a text-only format for their emails -- even if their software is capable of handling HTML mail. These people express their preference for text-only in two ways: One is by making this choice on the subscription form, selecting text over HTML, and the other is when they sign up for a newsletter that is offered only in text mode and continue their subscription after receiving a few issues.

While it seems like common sense to honor the preferences of people who visit the web site or subscribe to an email newsletter, we're seeing a number of web sites that want to disregard the preferences of their audience.

This can occur when a web site adds an HTML-formatted newsletter and wants to automatically change the preference of previous newsletter subscribers from text to HTML format. Technically, it's easy to determine if someone's computer can read HTML email. When that person opens his or her email and a graphic is served by the web server, it's clear that that person's computer can display HTML emails.

In addition to "sniffing" whether someone's computer can read HTML email, it's also possible to identify people by the domain name of web-based email services.

However, just because someone uses an HTML-capable email program doesn't mean he or she wants to receive a particular newsletter in HTML format.

It's easy to assume that the folks who work in Internet marketing would like to see email newsletters in highly graphical format, and newsletter publishers have generally been successful in automatically changing subscriber preferences for this group. However, when it comes to sending newsletters to people outside the Internet industry, it's a different story. Those subscribers send screaming emails complaining to the publisher when their newsletter preferences are converted without permission.

There are several ways to make it easy for subscribers to change from text to HTML format, so it's not necessary to take the chance of offending them by automatically changing their preferences.

One way is to provide a "one click" link in each issue that takes the reader to a web page that contains a database updating code to change the reader's preference. By including each reader's unique ID in the link, the server knows exactly who is clicking on the link.

Another approach is to provide a unique link to the subscription profile form on the web site. In addition to changing their format preferences, readers can also subscribe to additional newsletters and update any demographic information.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when offering readers a new HTML version of your email newsletter:

  • Explain how the additional navigation and formatting helps them more than the text format.

  • Invite them to try the new format.

  • Make it easy to switch back to text format.

  • Encourage them to provide feedback about the new format.

Keep in mind that the partnership between publisher and reader is fragile -- especially when it's so easy to switch to a competitive site. One key to successfully migrating subscribers' preferences from text to HTML is to involve them in the process as much as possible.

ClickZ Live New York What's New for 2015?
You spoke, we listened! ClickZ Live New York (Mar 30-Apr 1) is back with a brand new streamlined agenda. Don't miss the latest digital marketing tips, tricks and tools that will make you re-think your strategy and revolutionize your marketing campaigns. Super Saver Rates are available now. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cliff Allen

Cliff Allen is President of Coravue, a company that provides content management software and application service provider (ASP) hosting for Web and email. Allen is coauthor of three books about Internet marketing, including the "One-to-One Web Marketing, Second Edition" (John Wiley & Sons, 2001).

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

UPCOMING TRAINING

Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Lead Generation Specialist
      Lead Generation Specialist (The Oxford Club) - BaltimoreThe Oxford Club is seeking a talented writer/marketer to join our growing email lead-generation...
    • Health Marketing Editor
      Health Marketing Editor (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreCome flex your intellectual muscle as part of Agora, Inc’s (http://agora-inc.com/) legal team...
    • Marketing Systems Analyst
      Marketing Systems Analyst (OmniVista Health) - BaltimoreOmniVista Health is looking to add a Marketing Systems Analyst to our expanding team. We...