Do you have a successful e-mail list?
How do you determine its success:? Total subscribers? Number of weekly sign-ups? High open rate? Click-throughs? Comments generated?
All those numbers are important, but often the real value of a good list is the participation it stimulates between the subscriber and your business.
Too many businesses shell out too many dollars and resources to up their number of subscribers or to improve the demographic quality of their e-mail lists, while too few consider the quality of subscriber participation.
Don't confuse participation with interactive technology. I'm not talking about keeping customers entertained with bells and whistles. Worthwhile interaction truly engages your audience.
So when we decided we wanted to improve participation quality with our company newsletter subscribers, we pulled up our list -- and hit "delete."
We wiped out a list of over 40,000 addresses, built organically and through co-registration. A list we've been mailing to since 2000. Before you conclude my book tour drove me mad (and it may as well have), read on.
At the end of the day, we don't care much about the number of subscribers we have, we care about reader engagement -- the quality of the relationship readers have with us. We don't expect subscribers to read every issue, but if they haven't read our newsletter once in three months, we assume they're not interested, or don't have the time to invest. Making any other assumption risks the quality of our subscriber interaction. The last thing we want is for the newsletter to degrade into a perception of opt-in spam.
We worked closely with KobeMail, our e-mail service provider (ESP), to create a reader engagement index report, so we can monitor engagement more frequently. We also established mailing rules that make it harder for readers to stay subscribed if they don't participate at all.
Just because people allowed us into their inboxes at some point past doesn't mean we can abuse the privilege. Opt-ins are not forever.
For three months, we placed a call to action at the top of each semimonthly newsletter, asking subscribers to update their subscription. They had three options:
To date, 22 percent of list resubscribed to the e-mail version. The RSS and podcast feed numbers have grown significantly. But that doesn't matter.
What matters is we now have thousands of subscribers who demonstrated they're actively interested in what we have to say. From the recipient's perspective, we provided an opportunity for them to consume our content in the format they prefer. We reinforced their control of the relationship, sparking greater trust. Now we can e-mail them every other week and know our newsletter arrives in a receptive inbox.
Deleting your list and starting from scratch may be too extreme for some. But at the very least, approach your list differently:
Once you've placed yourself in your subscriber's shoes, make sure your list is accountable to well-defined KPIs. What good is a list that doesn't contribute to the financial well-being of your business?
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Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
June 20, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT