A Good First Impression Equals Stronger Opt-In Relationship

You wouldn’t intentionally leave budget money sitting on the table or openly invite spam complaints that could hurt your delivery. That’s what happens, though, when you fail to engage new subscribers as soon as they opt in to your list.

As with old-line direct marketing, the best addresses on your mailing list are the newest ones, the owners of which are more likely to open and respond to your e-mail messages than even those who have been on your list for just three months.

Why then does it take some marketers days, weeks, sometimes forever to send even a basic welcome message? This problem is bad enough when opt-in is done solely online. It gets worse when your program also collects e-mail addresses at point-of-purchase outlets in a store, at an event, on the phone, or in customer-service contacts.

Engaging new subscribers is an issue marketers deal with all year long. It becomes even more pressing now through the end of the year, as the holiday shopping season gears up.

You’re going to collect more opt-ins than ever in the next nine weeks. Are you ready to welcome them into the fold? Or will you seduce them at opt-in, then just begin blasting standard messages at them with no welcome at all?

First impressions count when building a relationship with new opt-ins. That can reduce future spam complaints due to lack of brand recognition.

Get the Ball Rolling

We’re actually talking about two problems here:

  • Timely database entries. Get names entered into your database as soon as possible after the opt-in. For retailers, customer-service staff, and others in the brick-and-mortar world, this means relaying them to your intake center daily if possible, but certainly no less frequently than weekly.

  • Immediate response to the opt-in. This includes not just a “thanks for subscribing” welcome message, but a whole package of offers, information, past articles, downloads, or whatever else it takes to gather your new subscribers into the fold and make them eager to see you show up in their inboxes.

The first three weeks or so are the most critical for converting new opt-ins from browsers into loyal customers. Take this opportunity to build your brand recognition. Show e-mail subscribers immediate value.

Here’s a three-stage quick start program:

1. Optimize Your Welcome Message

This goes out as soon as possible after the opt-in. Your list-management software should be configured to send a welcome message as soon as an opt-in is confirmed. This is also why names that originate at the cash register or in the customer-service pipeline must also be confirmed ASAP.

Your welcome message not only confirms the opt-in but also starts the loyalty and brand-building process. It should include:

  • A thank-you for signing up, along with a reminder about where and when the sign-up occurred, if your list software provides that much detail

  • An invitation to fill out a preference form and provide postal data as a backup should the e-mail address fail
  • A request to be added to the recipient’s address book or personal whitelist to ensure future delivery
  • A link to your Web site’s privacy policy and a short statement about what you’ll do with the e-mail address
  • Customer service contact information (toll-free numbers to reach a live support person)
  • A special offer available only via e-mail exclusively for new subscribers
  • An unsubscribe link (required by CAN-SPAM and other government e-mail regulations)

2. Fire Up the Welcome Wagon

Prepare a special mailing, sent a day or two after the welcome message, designed to be your subscriber’s guide to your company, brand, or Web site. This should provide value to newcomers while also keeping your name top of mind.

Include these elements:

  • An exclusive e-mail offer for new subscribers.

  • Links to services or remote but useful areas of your site subscribers might not find on their own.
  • A link to your most recent newsletter or offers they may have missed.
  • Links to archived news stories or special-interest articles. This not only increases your utility to subscribers but also provides more exposure for material you’ve already produced

3. Request Opinions

After your subscribers have been around for a couple of weeks or so, send a survey or invitation to fill out a more detailed preference form. Again, this mailing serves two purposes:

  • You get more detailed information about your subscribers, which will allow you to better target your future mailings.

  • You give your subscribers a value-oriented reason to interact with you, which should further cement your relationship with them and provide less reason to hit the “report spam” button.

As usual, provide an unsubscribe link, but be sure it links to a page where they can tell you why they’re leaving.

One Final Tip

Scatter your e-mail opt-in links everywhere: on each page of your Web site; on your landing pages for people who find you through paid or organic search, in customer-service e-mail, and anywhere else a link or blank is appropriate. Then, test your opt-in process to make sure it works.

And as always, keep on deliverin’.

Meet Stefan at E-Mail Marketing, the first in the new ClickZ Specifics conference series, October 24-25 in New York City.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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