As we know, it’s taboo to email people who have unsubscribed from your list. But you might be able to recapture them if they still visit your site. Make a campaign of your email sign-ups on your Web site (more on this later). If you have snail-mail addresses (that is, addresses for physical locations) and your email list is lucrative enough, consider sending a targeted direct-mail message inviting them back. The best place to start is by making sure you know what each of those email addresses is worth to your top and bottom lines.
1. Round up the strays.
Bounced addresses may be another source for rounding up the strays. If your list is small enough, you can probably afford an hour or two of someone’s time to look over those addresses for common typos and the like. Look for “alo” instead of “aol,” “c.om,” “2” instead of “@” — just take a spot check of email addresses that are bouncing and work it from there.
Of course, doing this manually with a list of thousands of names would be silly. But your database team can help you with this. Someone who knows scripting can create scripts that can help you find these errors and create an output file of bad addresses. This will greatly reduce the workload.
Something else to think about is how you approach those customers who have been off your send list for any length of time. You might need to address them and let them know you’ve been cleaning house and that you’re sorry you’ve missed them with other messages.
One consideration is email change of address (ECOA). I’m only beginning my research into this. I guess there is a bit of delicate tap dancing to be considered here — privacy issues are a concern if these are not people who actually signed up to have mail forwarded. That said, if you will let me know of your experiences using this type of service and with whom you’ve worked, I’ll try and flesh this concept out in a later article. Send your info to me.
2. Don’t lose those visitors when they are trying to sign up for your email list.
I recently tried to sign up for a potential client’s email newsletter and found myself lost in the process. One of my coworkers was at the home page at the same time, and she had a button (acting like a rotating ad) requesting that visitors sign up for the newsletter. I refreshed my page several times, went out and came back, and still had no offer of the newsletter. I like the use of the rotating ad for this. However, email sign-ups, especially free newsletters, should stand out on your home page and be a regular part of the site’s nav bar whenever possible. You invested in getting those customers to come and visit, so make sure it’s easy for them to stay connected!
After joining the “site” through an inquiry for information on the home page, I received a welcome letter. Way at the bottom of the message was a link to sign up to newsletters. This was confusing, as when I entered my address on the site, there was a check box that said “send me newsletters.” I checked it , so I thought I had signed up. So, I went back to the site and made sure I was subscribed. I began receiving one of two weekly newsletters that same week. I am still not receiving the other — bummer! This brings me to my final point.
3. Test your own sign-up processes regularly.
It’s very easy to become complacent or rely on someone else to check details. I highly recommend you check your own sign-up processes regularly. Make sure that when someone joins your list, the correct welcome message is sent. Make sure that the welcome message clearly states what your visitor signed up to receive. Make sure that once that welcome is received, the subscriber actually makes it into your list and is sent what he or she requested.
On a somewhat related issue, work with your data folks and Webmaster to create checks in your email entry point on your Web site. Try to catch the typos and random characters when they are keyed in. Use simple code to ensure that there is an “@” symbol and that there are no keyboard wingdings: ! # $ % ^ & * ( ) + = ˜ (no, that’s not confusion, those are symbols you want to weed out). These are all indications the address is not valid, and you may lose a customer for good. You may also want to add text to the page, letting customers know that a confirmation or welcome message will be sent and when they should expect it. This might help them come back if that message does not arrive.
Following these recommendations can help bring some of those strays or lost email customers back to your active file. You should also create a regular schedule (quarterly at minimum) for these processes to make sure you continue to address these issues regularly.
Have a great week! — Jackie G.
P.S. If you are going to the Fall DMA show in Chicago, drop us a line!