Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Creating Lifelong Subscribers Through Email Marketing

You Guys Met Online. It started with a visit to your site, and there was an immediate attraction. Maybe-Maybe not. Are you making it easy to be “introduced” to potential subscribers? It’s essential to make it “easy” to sign up. Whether it’s through your corporate website or promoted through your social media outlets, keep the following rules in mind when considering your introduction tactics:

Think Sex Appeal
Okay, not really, but do think about appealing to your subscriber. How does the term “Subscribe” compare to the term “Sign up”. It may be a small component of your registration process, but it’s an important one because it’s the first call to action. Consider all of the elements of your subscriber process and identify elements that may be less than appealing and may cause fallout. Don’t Be Afraid of a Little Self Promotion.

Reinforcing the benefits of your email marketing program is critical to increasing opt-ins. It also serves a great purpose of setting expectations. Regardless of whether it’s content or frequency that you are promoting, it helps give the subscriber a clear description of what to expect and helps them make an informed decision.

The reality is that your subscriber relationship is very similar to any relationship. It starts with a date, doubts can occur, breakups may happen, or lifelong partnerships are made. As a marketer, these steps are all part of the lifecycle so it’s important to be able to identify the phases and read the cues of your subscriber relationship. This paper will outline the elements of a strategic email marketing program that takes the subscriber from introduction to a lifelong relationship.

Be Careful of Coming Off Too Eager
Many subscribers are willing to subscribe in return for something that is valuable to them. You can consider different offers for signing up. The offer may include free shipping, dollars off, content offer, “exclusive” opportunity, or a percentage discount. Be careful, though. Often times a contact that has been incentivized through an offer is less likely to be retained. You will have to work that much harder at making it a lifelong relationship.

Think About How You Make Connections
It’s critical to be where your possible subscribers are. Just like when you are in your twenties trying out the various social scenes looking to make a long lasting connection , so should you try out the various channels that your “would be subscribers” are hanging out. If you haven’t leveraged social media to promote your opt-in you should consider it. Including a permanent spot on your Facebook page is a good start, or tweeting about it every so often will spread your reach. Don’t forget the more traditional paths such as SEO/SEM as well.

These are just a few ways that you can raise your game in facilitating matchups. The challenge as well as the opportunity lies in finding ways to be creative, get yourself out there, and get those opt-ins.

The First Date
Oh, the nervousness of the first date. You guys are introduced, you feel a connection, there’s a “how do we get to know one another better?” moment, and then there’s magic…or there’s a disconnect. This can also be true of your subscriber’s first experience with your email campaign. If expectations weren’t set or there wasn’t reinforcement of those expectations, it may end in your subscriber feeling as though you aren’t really in tune with their needs. Subscribers should receive a welcome message immediately following their opt-in to your email marketing program.

This welcome message is the first date. It tells whether or not you guys are going to last or if this relationship will fizzle fast. A well-crafted welcome message not only reinforces the benefits of subscribing, but it also puts content and frequency in the hands of the subscriber. If you aren’t allowing your subscribers the opportunity to choose what content is relevant to them, how often they would like to receive it, or what types of campaigns they would like to receive, then you are doing your email marketing program a disservice. If you want to create compelling campaigns that speak to your subscriber and drive relevancy, start with letting them do some of the talking. Let them tell you what piques their interest and use that data to create customized experiences unique to them. It will definitely get them intrigued to see what’s next.

The Blind Date
A blind date is awkward at best. You have friends that match you up because they think you would be PERFECT for each other, just to find out that you have nothing in common. You stumble through the evening and both hope that it will end sooner rather than later. Now let’s talk about buying a contact list. The reason we use “subscriber” throughout this whitepaper is because the fact remains that someone who subscribes or opts-in to your email marketing program is much more likely to:

Achieve Higher Subscriber Retention Rates
According to a report by Forrester Research titled “Email Marketing Needs Permission”, opt-in lists retained 49% of their subscribers while those that didn’t utilize opt-in lists only retained 28% of their subscribers.

Engage More Valuable Prospects and Customers
Those that are willing to opt-in to receive your messages are also going to be more willing to provide additional data, such as preferences, allowing you to create more relevant campaigns.

More Profitable (higher conversion rates)
It’s inevitable; someone who requested to receive content from you is much more likely to open, read, and convert. Remember to use the data that you have collected to ensure that the message is timely and meets the needs of the customer. In other words, deliver what you promised at registration.

Reinforce Reputation
The worst mistake we as marketers can make is to assume that what we have to offer is what the subscriber really wants. Making the assumption that a person wants to receive your message without their explicit opt-in can hurt your campaign performance as well as your brand reputation. Put the choice in the hands of the contact and you build a relationship that will last from opt-in to win-back.

“We’re Dating”
You’ve announced it to everyone, you guys are officially dating, which also means you’re “off the market” for others. Now if this were only true for our marketing programs. Once you get through the “get to know you” stage and start relating to your audience with relevant content that converts, you can create a real brand advocate. How do you do this? We’d love to say it’s easy, but as in any relationship, it takes work.

Don’t Treat Every Date the Same
A “one size fits all” message approach will not retain your subscriber. You need to segment and craft campaigns that are compelling. The possibilities are endless as to how you segment: purchase behavior, website history, demographic data, and preferences are just a few ways to target your audience. Ultimately the key is to begin to think of each subscriber as unique, instead of thinking of them as one whole sum. Your subscribers will thank you and the return will be well worth it.

Be Responsive
Nothing can be more relevant than an email campaign that responds to the lifecycle of your subscriber. Whether it’s a transactional message triggered from a purchase, or a win-back message triggered after 60 days of inactivity, creating campaigns that respond to activity or inactivity are highly targeted and keep the subscriber engaged. Allow Communication to Happen. It’s easy to get into a push mode. Push campaign after campaign without eliciting a response from your subscriber. In today’s social environment, you must be willing to give your subscriber a voice. Whether it’s through user reviews, polls, or video, giving your subscriber a voice builds trust and brand loyalty, not to mention it adds credibility to your product or services.

Stop Smothering Me
It happens to the best of us. We get over-eager. We stop thinking about the needs of our subscriber, and begin only thinking of our needs. There are warning signs, but we always seem surprised when we are faced with our subscriber saying “no more” or even less appealing, marking our campaigns as SPAM. Why does this happen? Easy. We aren’t relevant to our subscriber any longer. This action can happen from one event or a series of events. Regardless, it’s important to keep in mind not to over-do it. Just like your constant texts can annoy your significant other, so can over-sending annoy your subscriber. Set frequency caps. Also make certain that every message that you are sending out is truly relevant to your subscriber.

Don’t send for the sake of sending.

Marital Bliss
Creating a lifelong subscriber is hard, but the payoff is huge if you are willing to make the commitment. As in any long-term relationship, there will be bumps in the road. Win-back campaigns are a must, just as flowers are after a big fight. Here are just a few ways to keep the dialogue fresh and the relationship alive. The Power of Exclusive.

Exclusive can go a long way in your subscriber relationship. Exclusive offers, content, and previews are just a few ways that you can make your subscriber feel special and distinguish them from the rest of the crowd.Keep it Fresh.

The key to a lasting relationship is to not let the romance fizzle. This too can be said of your email marketing program. Prevent your campaigns from running on auto-pilot and always consider ways to optimize. Testing is a viable component of email marketing that other marketing channels don’t have the advantage of incorporating. Consider subject lines, offers, time of send, or call-to-actions as a start. It’s just good practice to not ever feel like your relationship is good as is. There’s always room for improvement.

Build Loyalty
A brand advocate can do more for your business than you realize. Create a subscriber loyalty program that allows them to reap the incentives of tweeting out your email promotion or making purchases. Showing appreciation for the subscriber relationship is an underutilized tactic in many email marketing programs.

Win-Back Their Love
Before they hit that unsubscribe button, be cognizant of how the subscriber is engaging with your email marketing program. Make every effort to win them back before they disengage completely. Create a trigger-based campaign with an “I must stay committed to this brand” offer that sends to your inactive contacts after 30-60 days. Try to win them back before they have already said goodbye. At the end of the day, creating a lifelong subscriber should be a priority for your email marketing program. Reducing churn and increasing loyalty positively impacts your bottom line. Not to mention, it can create real brand advocates. Deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time and reap the benefits of a lifelong subscriber.