Successful E-Mail Tactics: Entrance and Exit Strategies

Last week, my amazing co-columnist Jeanne Jennings wrote about retention email marketing tactics gone bad. In her column, she questions whether continuing to send email that gets absolutely no response is an example of persistence or of arrogance. She points out this type of effort has serious implications; it could be the future cause of spam complaints.

For me, Jeanne’s column was perfectly timed. When it published, I was at a high-tech business-to-business (B2B) workshop speaking about email marketing best practices. On my list of the top five strategic elements to drive successful email, my number one item is all about designing entrance and exit strategies.

Many people forget email isn’t brand new to recipients. This sounds like a strange statement to make, but think about it. How many times do you receive email messages from a company for a few months, and each starts out as if they were the first email the company ever sent to you?

And how many times have you not opened, read, or clicked on an email for months, yet the messages keep coming to your inbox?

Designing entrance and exit strategies is critical to your email program contact flow. The strategies can vary by campaign or account. Simply put though, the entrance strategy is the acknowledgement your recipient has received or interacted with email messages from your company in the past. The exit strategy is the defined manner and time period in which you’ll remove someone from your email list.

Before you can write an entrance or exit strategy, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself. For the entrance strategy:

  1. Is this the first email this person will receive from your company?

  2. If yes, how long has it been since she subscribed?
  3. If no, how long as it been since she received the last email from your company?
  4. Does this email pertain specifically to preferences the recipient set? Or is her address pulled from a larger targeted pool? I signed up for email and said I was interested in servers, for example. But the email I receive is about wireless campaigns because it’s targeted to my job title.

For the exit strategy:

  1. Do you have a direct mail or telephone campaign reaching out to the same audience at the same time?

  2. Will these people receive other email campaign messages when you send your email?
  3. If you remove them from this campaign flow, when will they receive new email again (if ever)?
  4. During opt-in, how did you prepared them for messages?

Using entrance and exit strategies enables you to define a contact flow that will provide tangible benefits, including:

  • Reduced potential for spam complaints

  • Increased readership through recognition of program participation
  • Increased response results through the elimination of non-responsive members
  • Increased conversion rates through the personalized treatment

Entrance and exit strategies needn’t be hard. They can be effective, simple tactics or additions to your campaign process.

Unilever’s homebasics offers an example of a simple entrance strategy. Without changing any specific elements of its email or contact strategy, it adds a simple sentence at the top of the email that references the length of time someone has been a member.

New members receive a statement saying, “We’re thrilled you’ve signed up for our newsletter! Feel free to manage your preferences at any time.” Existing members receive a statement saying, “You are receiving this email because you previously granted Unilever permission to keep you informed of special offers. We hope you enjoy your newsletter! Feel free to manage your preferences at any time.” The statement changes based on the way subscribers opted into the program.

This simple acknowledgement of a relationship has tremendous results in building customer advocacy.

Mullen Screen
Click on graphic to view an example of BMW’s Mini email message

Because exit strategies really involve removing non-responsive people from your list, there aren’t as many opportunities to be creative. The most simplistic exit strategy is to remove someone from your list if he hasn’t opened and clicked after a specific number of email messages. Many clients send a “final effort” message first, to give people one last chance. BMW’s Mini email messages are a great example of this type of messaging.

If you aren’t using entrance or exit strategies, test them on your next set of messages. Their strategic value will only grow as we continue to struggle with deliverability and relevance issues.

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ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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