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Leveraging Your Confirmation Emails

  |  October 31, 2001   |  Comments

Too many marketers are overlooking the opportunity to send messages to customers when they’re actually waiting to hear from you -- in confirmation emails. Debbie has some suggestions for getting more mileage out of messages you’re already sending anyway.

The lowly confirmation message gets short shrift in the email marketing cycle. You know the emails I’m referring to -- the perfunctory autoresponders that pop into your in box to confirm an online transaction, a sign-up for an e-newsletter, a request for a white paper, an RSVP to a Webinar, and so on.

It’s a shame, because these messages have tremendous potential as part of your overall email marketing strategy. Consider your reader’s frame of mind. He or she is willing and expectant, primed to receive your message at exactly the moment you are sending it. This is the best possible scenario for opt-in permission email marketing, n’est-ce pas?

In these times of uncertainty, it’s comforting to focus on something easy to control -- particularly if it offers a high return on investment (ROI) in terms of branding and positioning your company with a clear, credible voice. Herewith, three recommendations for getting more out of your confirmation messages.

Establish Credibility and Strengthen Your Brand

It doesn’t matter whether you’re IBM, Citibank, or nonamecompany.com. The tone you establish in your confirming email resonates loudly with your willing reader. These little messages are a cornerstone of electronic customer relationship management (e-CRM).

One master of voice in email marketing is consultant Larry Chase. When you sign up for his e-newsletter, Web Digest for Marketers (WDFM), you get an 800-word welcome message written in his trademark style -- smooth, polished, and an easy read. I’ve written about Larry before, but he really deserves kudos for this confirmation message.

In it, he:

  1. Introduces himself ("Dear New Subscriber, I’m Larry Chase...") and gives specific examples of the topics, categories, and special focus issues covered in his e-newsletters

  2. Introduces his new advertising vehicle, a separate biweekly email presenting subscribers with "exclusive offers" from carefully selected third-party vendors

  3. Points the subscriber to the free PDF download of "Top Ten Tips for Starting an Email Newsletter" he promised at sign-up

  4. Tells about the history and background of WDFM, which he began publishing in 1995

  5. Recommends three other email newsletters on marketing subscribers should sign up for

  6. Tells about his parent company and consulting clients (names such as 3Com and Electrolux) and includes a plug for his newest consulting offer -- a three-hour phone conference

  7. Adds a plug for the new edition of his book, "Essential Business Tactics for the Net"

  8. Winds up with a tongue-in-cheek, "I could go on, but I won’t :)"

  9. Signs the message with his name

  10. Ends with a P.S. on how to get ad rates for advertising in WDFM

Whew! In one autoresponder message, he has included useful and interesting content, fulfilled an offer, engaged in some branding and positioning of his company, executed on his affiliate marketing relationships, cross and up-sold his other products and services, taken a first step to sell advertising -- and at the end, offered specific information on how to contact him using a direct phone number and personal email address.

It’s easy to forget -- or purposely omit -- contact coordinates in a confirmation message. Don’t. No one wants to send an email to info@mycompany.com. A phone number for a specific person always makes your company more credible.

Offer Something Extra and Unexpected

What Larry doesn’t do is present a link to an additional free offer he didn’t originally mention (would have been overkill in his case). Such an offer can make a great impression if you slip it in naturally and if you happen to have a free report lying around that you can convert to a PDF or if you want to point to content deeper in your Web site.

InternetVIZ does this when you sign up for a free white paper. An autoresponder message quickly follows with "P.S. -- Click here to pick up another free white paper on Why Internet Mail Campaigns Are Effective."

Lay the Groundwork for a Continuing Relationship

Even if your message confirms removal from a list, don’t miss the opportunity to get more information from your former subscriber -- and possibly recapture him or her.

Here’s a great example: SitePoint Tribune is a savvy marketing e-newsletter published by a couple of Australians. It comes in a sleek HTML format and in a text format. As an HTML subscriber, I decided to sign up for the text version -- just to see how they handled the same copy and content.

I deliberately unsubscribed from the text version, prompting a well-crafted confirmation message: You have successfully unsubscribed from the weekly SitePoint Tribune newsletter (Text Version). Should you wish to join again, simply send a blank email to mailto:subscribe@sitepoint.com or visit http://www.SitePointTribune.com.

We would also like to take this opportunity to ask for your feedback on how to improve the newsletter. If you would like to share why you unsubscribed or your opinions on how we can make the newsletter more useful and relevant to you, please email mailto:tribune@sitepoint.com. Simple and to the point. Also, a great way to survey outgoing subscribers and possibly capture some useful information. I hope everyone is doing this no-cost, guerrilla market research. Sign up for everything you can on well-designed business-to-business (B2B) sites (you can use a free, Web-based email address if you have privacy concerns). You can test the sign-up process, learn how "easy" the free download is, critique autoresponder confirmations, and learn what not to do when you implement similar marketing tactics. I’ve deliberately chosen a small topic for this week. If there are subjects related to B2B email marketing and e-newsletters you want to hear more about, please give me a holler.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Debbie Weil

Debbie Weil is publisher of WordBiz Report, which focuses on the business of words online. It was awarded The Newsletter on Newsletters' Gold Award for Online Subscription Newsletter. A former newspaper reporter with an MBA and corporate marketing experience, Debbie is an expert on B2B online content and marketing at both the strategic and creative levels. She was Web content marketing manager for Network Solutions (now part of Verisign) before launching WordBiz.com.

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