When someone opts in to receive e-mail from you, it's a big deal. Here's what works and doesn't work -- and why.
In my last column, I introduced a very simple segmentation model that relies on observed behavior; an overview appears below.
Any marketer tracking basic e-mail metrics will be able to use this model to better target content and, hopefully, improve performance. It's not that this model is better than others that segment by interest, industry, or another differentiator. It's that this model relies on information that should be available from even the most basic e-mail marketing program.
In this column, I'm going to focus on the first segmentation group: people new to the list. These registrants have recently opted-in to receive e-mail from you. This may not seem like a big deal, but in reality it is. These people have taken the first step toward developing an e-mail relationship with you. They like you. How are you going to respond?
Most companies send a welcome message. That's good -- it's better than not acknowledging the new list members at all. But many welcome messages are a bit bland, like the example below.
It has the basics -- a "thanks for signing-up" message, a link to update subscription information, a user name. But is it really moving the relationship forward? Is it motivating the reader to become more engaged with the organization? Is it moving the reader toward the action they want or need them to take to satisfy their revenue model? The answer to all these questions is "no."
Now let's look at a welcome message that's a bit more effective at getting people to contribute to the organization's bottom line. The e-mail below includes a number of elements that the one above does not.
First, the bullet points remind the reader of why they signed up for this e-mail. This list of benefits reinforces the value of the e-mail relationship and gives readers a reason to watch for and open future e-mails from this organization. If you don't have a succinct list of what your e-mail program offers your readers, here's your chance to write it. Remember: focus on benefits and advantages over features. If your newsletter carries industry news, it's still not really about sending people "industry news" (feature). It is about delivering information to help them do their jobs better (benefit) and getting it in a single daily e-mail, rather than having to search around the Web for it (advantage).
Another very effective element of this e-mail is the "Shop Now" button at the right. This link goes directly to the organization's bottom line; it seeks to entice readers to return to the site, right now, and purchase. Every welcome message should include a "next step" that will move the reader toward your ultimate goal for them. If your goal is lead generation, this may be an invitation to learn more about your product or take a demo. If you make your money on advertising revenue, it might be a link that drives readers to articles of interest on your site. And those articles happen to be surrounded by advertising.
As good as this e-mail is, I can think of a way it could be better: include a discount offer with a set expiration date. This would add urgency as well as an additional incentive to make a purchase. Even a small discount (5 percent or 10 percent) can be enough of a sweetener to spur action. An expire date (it's good if you can enforce this, but not the end of the world if you can't) is critical; it motivates people to take action now and discourages them from setting the e-mail aside to act on later and then forgetting about it.
If your goal is lead generation you might offer a free white paper or something else of value to those who return, right now, and provide some additional information about themselves or view a video or other educational content about your product. The key is to identify the next logical step in the relationship and offer the reader something to take it.
Another thing that would be nice: personalization. If you are collecting first name at opt-in, then you should use it in your welcome message and in every other e-mail you send. That's one way to build a relationship. If you have first names for some, but not all, of your new registrants, most e-mail programs allow you to designate a "default" or "slug" to be used when there's no first name in the record. If you use a default, then instead of "Dear Jeanne" the e-mail might say "Dear Reader" if you don't have my first name. Not quite as good as using my name, but better than no salutation at all.
These are all good ways to leverage a single welcome message. Another tactic I've used successfully with clients is to develop a "welcome series," consisting of three to five e-mails that are triggered by the registration and sent in sequence over a period of one to four weeks. Welcome series are a great way to educate readers about a complex product or service; they can actually start moving prospects along the sales cycle so that they are more qualified once a sale representative becomes involved. I'm going to talk in detail about ways to develop a successful e-mail welcome series in my next column.
In the meantime, take a look at your current welcome message and identify ways you could make it work harder for your company and your new e-mail registrants.
Until next time,
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Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.
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