The first e-mail you send to a new subscriber is where you set and manage expectations. Some do's and don'ts.
As I wrote my last column, "Three Rules for Reconfirming E-mail Lists," I realized that I haven't written about the dos and don'ts for writing and delivering a welcome message to new subscribers. Whether you use, or should be using, confirmed opt-in (COI) depends on many factors. COI is the gold standard. It has many benefits and some disadvantages.
Regardless of what kind of opt-in you use, you'll send a first message to each new subscriber. The what, when, and how of that first message is key. It sets the tone for the relationship. As with any relationship, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
This takes on added importance if there's a time lag between subscription and first message. Remind recipients when, where, and how they registered. Otherwise, they may not remember having subscribed or they may not connect your e-mail with the Web site they visited a few days earlier.
Sometimes an e-mail address is shared by two or more family members. Providing the details can avoid a situation where an angry spouse complains of spam. Whatever the reasons, the more you tell recipients about why they're receiving your message, the fewer complaints and issues you'll have.
The number one way to reduce complaints among new subscribers is to provide a clear and accurate explanation of why someone is receiving a message.
For example, something like this doesn't count and won't help: "You are receiving this message because you signed up on our Web site, or that of one of our affiliates, or contacted our customer support, or in some other way indicated a desire to receive e-mail from us."
However, this will: "You are receiving this e-mail because on Saturday, August 24 at www.example.com you signed up for our product updates newsletter."
Your confirmation message should be sent quickly. Ideally, that means immediately upon receipt of the subscription. There can be reasons why a message takes time to work its way through your internal systems, but it's vital to make this happen as quickly as possible.
The greater the delay, the greater the disconnect among subscribers between their subscription behavior and the received e-mail. This leads directly to an increased complaint and opt-out rate.
Offer an Opt-Out
If you aren't using confirmed (double) opt-in, at the very least ensure there's a clear and easy opt-out mechanism in your confirmation message. Sure, it can be argued that this isn't legally required because the message is transactional in nature, but this is when recipients are most likely to change their mind.
When someone wants off your mailing list, making it hard -- or even fighting with that person -- does more harm than good. If you don't let them easily unsubscribe, many will use the TIS (this is spam) button instead, which harms your reputation, may result in delivery issues, and -- most importantly -- irritates your customers and prospects.
This is your opportunity to set expectations. Even if your signup process discloses what someone signs up for, it's worth repeating. If you send daily offers, yet subscribers don't expect them, subscribers will find out pretty soon and may be upset. Tell them up front what they're going to get, and how often, so they can choose to join or not.
If you offer a profile management center, this is also a great place to get new subscribers to ensure their profile is accurate and that their subscription preferences are what they really want. If you send a variety of communications, your subscribers may or may not realize just how many of them they agreed to when they first signed up. This is especially true for off-line subscription processes.
The first e-mail you send to a new subscriber is where you set and manage expectations. Your efforts will be rewarded if you do this successfully and then meet those expectations.
Until next time,
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Derek Harding is the CEO and founder of Innovyx Inc., a member of the Omnicom Group and the first e-mail service provider to be wholly owned by a full-service marketing agency. A British expatriate living in Seattle, WA, Derek is a technologist by background who has been working in online marketing on both sides of the Atlantic for the last 10 years.
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