Cross-brand promotion is one of the thorniest issues in e-mail marketing, mainly because many marketers don't see the potential traps.
When you promote your other brands to your customers the right way, you build a strong list of subscribers who are fans already of your other brands or sister companies or who found your Brand B a better fit than Brand A.
But you invite trouble when you assume that your Brand A subscribers automatically want messages about Brand B. Adding newsletters without getting explicit permission first is an opt-out strategy and forces your subscribers to say "Stop!" to you.
That's not a growth strategy. Instead, you set yourself up for more unsubscribes and spam complaints, which hurt your deliverability and can lower your overall marketing performance.
Wrong and Right Ways to Cross-Promote
I'm not saying you shouldn't cross-promote. Your current customers are your best resource, after all, since they already know you and, presumably, like the products you offer.
However, you get the best results - both in ROI (define) and deliverability - when you let your subscribers decide for themselves which e-mail messages they want to receive.
You probably have enough crossover among your market niches to justify cross-brand promotion, but not enough to start sending hardware deals to your sportswear shoppers.
Even if your company's divisions are complementary - flowers, gifts, and specialty foods, for example - you still shouldn't assume that your flower buyers also want your fruitcakes.
This problem goes beyond permission transfer or assuming interest. What if someone on the Brand A newsletter list previously opted out of Brand B e-mail or opts out of Brand A e-mail and expects all communication to cease?
Even scrubbing the list against Brand B's do-not-e-mail list doesn't solve the problem when people opt out of one list but continue to receive e-mail from others at the same company.
Legalities aside, this is underhanded and certain to backfire on you through unsubscribes, inactivity, and spam complaints.
Cross-Promote Through High Visibility
So, now that I established a strong stand against cross-promoting without permission, here's how to do it right.
Without detracting from your primary message, keep your other options in front of subscribers, either to expand their subscriptions or as alternatives:
This increases visibility and also creates an atmosphere of credibility. If subscribers like your publications and want more of them, connecting the brands together will make them more likely to sign up.
You can even send a sample of another newsletter to your subscribers as part of your regular messaging schedule, with these safeguards:
Most likely, the content of each alternative newsletter will be somewhat different from your current one. The call to action should reflect this difference (for example, a bargain version of an upscale retail newsletter, or a men's version of a newsletter focused on women's interests).
One Last Thought
Go ahead and cross-promote your newsletters among your various audiences. Just be sure the registration reins remain in your subscribers' hands.
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 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT