Your e-mail recipients are ready, willing, and able to whitelist corporate e-mail senders, but your chance of reaching the winner’s circle is about one in four, according to a new study of consumer e-mail behavior and perceptions.
Database marketing agency Merkle’s “View from the Inbox 2009” study shows recipients will take steps to make sure the e-mail they want gets delivered to their inboxes, but not every sender qualifies for preferential treatment.
How can you boost your chance of scoring inbox placement? Relevance and frequency still matter. Giving recipients ample opportunity to whitelist your sending address doesn’t hurt, either.
First, a few statistics from the Merkle report:
- Whitelisting goes mainstream: 53 percent of consumer e-mail recipients have added at least one permission-e-mail sender to their address books.
- Recipients are picky: On average, only 25 percent, or one in four companies, gets whitelisted.
- Irrelevance is top opt-out driver: 75 percent said they unsubscribed for that reason, while 73 percent opted out because of high frequency.
These statistics highlight how your deliverability depends on maintaining a good relationship by sending relevant e-mail at acceptable frequencies.
Relevance, however, isn’t so easy to achieve until you accept that it’s what your subscribers, not you, say it is. This means e-mail that meets your customers’ needs and answers their questions.
Are You Listening Where Subscribers Are Talking?
As an e-mail marketer, you probably spend a lot of time making sure your e-mail looks and says exactly what you want, both in content and appearance. But do your messages answer your subscribers’ most pressing needs and questions?
These next strategies can uncover questions your customers are asking and guide you in devising strategies to answer them:
- Ask your front-line customer-service people what the number one issue your customers contact you about is. Answer customer questions before they arise. Listen in on phone calls or review recorded calls and transcripts. Look for topics that you can turn into messages and insert into your customer-lifecycle messaging program.
- Be sure your landing page and e-mail opt-in process support your highest traffic-generating search terms. Someone who queries a search engine is actually asking a question. Does your landing page answer those questions or direct visitors to the answers? Also, your landing page should invite visitors to subscribe to your e-mail. This way, your automated “welcome” message can answer more questions with company or contact information and links back into your Web site. This makes your first contact with new subscribers or customers more relevant and sets expectations for future messages.
- Use survey data to improve relevance. Include quick polls or questions in your regular messages, or send standalone surveys, then store the responses in the respondent’s profile. Use it to improve segmentation or to create dynamic content for future e-mail.
- Ask the right questions at opt-in. Watch for incorrect assumptions. Gender is a classic misleader. I often shop online for gifts for my wife as well as my own needs. My profile says I’m a man; but if you don’t follow where I go on your site, you’ll miss opportunities. Ask me which product categories I prefer to shop, or track where I’m clicking and look for broad variances from my profile data. You’ll likely send me more relevant messages.
- Create messages triggered by page visits and time on site. Someone who moves all over your site or records a long time on a single page and leaves without converting might have unresolved questions. Approach this two ways: Create a hover form often used for acquisition (like a virtual salesperson asking, “How can I help you?”) or, if the visitor is a subscriber, trigger an e-mail follow-up message with contact information for more help or a targeted offer, such as a discount on the product they viewed.
Don’t Forget: Ask for the Add
The Merkle study shows people are willing to whitelist. So keep asking them to do this, but also promote it early and often:
- Add instructions at opt-in, before confirmation. Don’t wait until the “welcome” mail goes out (but do include them there, for backup).
- Explain the benefit: “Don’t miss your preferred-subscriber specials! Add our e-mail address to your address book now.”
- Include the request in your e-mail template but not in the pre-header. Reserve that for your offer or key message information. The second line is fine, or include in your regular administrative copy.
Find more address-book advice in this earlier ClickZ column, “Address-Book Additions Boost Inbox Arrivals.”
Until next time, keep on deliverin’!
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