Gmail’s Message to Newsletter Publishers: Get Rid of Inactive Subscribers

As a result of recent changes in Google’s popular Gmail product, newsletter publishers need to take a close look at slimming down their subscriber lists to prevent readership from plummeting.

As a result of recent changes in Google’s popular Gmail product, newsletter publishers need to take a close look at slimming down their subscriber lists to prevent readership from plummeting.

Email services have long tended to punish newsletters that are sent to large numbers of “spam traps” — AKA abandoned email addresses — sometimes shunting them to spam folders or blocking them altogether. So the need to weed out subscribers who never open a newsletter is nothing new.

But Google upped the ante late last year with Gmail, which serves more than half the subscribers for many consumer newsletters. (The changes were presumably rolled out as well to G Suite, the Google product that underlies many corporate email systems.)

“Gmail began to penalize senders more heavily for longer-term inactives — those subscribers who hadn’t opened or clicked in more than 180 days — and there was some intermittent spam folder placement and a reputation drop as a result,” says Clea Moore of Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. That led to a noticeable drop in open rates for email campaigns that Oracle’s clients sent to Gmail addresses.

There are two takeaways:

  • List hygiene has usually focused on avoiding spam traps. But now Google’s machine-learning system is also identifying the much larger pool of people who are actively monitoring their email accounts but simply not opening your newsletter.
  • Now we have a deadline: Just under six months. And remember, that’s Oracle’s estimate for what will send you to the Gmail doghouse. To be safe, you should probably stop sending to subscribers who haven’t opened your newsletter for five straight months.

Screams from the C-Suite

I can hear the C-suite screaming now, “Just when we need first-party data more than ever, why would we shrink our subscriber list? What will the advertisers say? Shouldn’t we be sending the newsletter to as many people as possible?”

No, you should be trying to get the newsletter delivered to as many inboxes as possible. Continuing to send to non-readers will give the newsletter a bad reputation, causing even some of your active subscribers to stop receiving it.

“But our email service provider says that more than 99% of our newsletters are delivered.”

That’s misleading. When an ESP says “delivered,” it means there was no bounce-back message that would prove an email was not delivered. But “delivered” can apply to emails that ended up in a Promotions or Spam folder that the subscriber never sees and even to emails that were blocked by the recipient’s email system.

And, worst of all, some “delivered” newsletters are sent to valid email addresses that haven’t been monitored in several months – perhaps because of a job change, switching to a new email service, or even a death.

Spam Trap

When actual people stop sending emails to an address, it becomes a spam trap; any organization that continues blasting newsletters to that address will find it harder to reach the inboxes of other subscribers using the same email service.

And as for advertisers, from what I see, they’ll be fine. Gone are the days when publishers could wow sponsors with big subscription lists for newsletters that hardly anyone actually reads.

Savvy ad buyers are now more interested in open rates and clickthroughs than in total subscription counts. They would rather place an ad in a 10,000-subscriber newsletter with a 40% open rate, which indicates high reader engagement, than a 40,000-subscriber title with a 10% open rate, which is a red flag that a newsletter is being ignored both by subscribers and the publisher.

The email service providers used by most publishers have automated ways to send what are euphemistically called “re-engagement campaigns” to inactive subscribers using a set of rules — such as anyone who hasn’t opened or clicked in the past four months. These are more accurately described as “click-or-you’re-toast” campaigns because, unless the subscriber clicks a button saying she wants to continue receiving the newsletter, she will be automatically unsubscribed.

No matter how clever the subject line, the open rates and response rates to such campaigns are abysmally low, often below 1%. That’s because, in essence, you’ve already lost the subscriber. She’s either ignoring you or you’ve already been kicked out of her inbox.

It Starts Before the Beginning

Maintaining a healthy subscriber list with a sterling reputation starts with the sign-up process.

Are your promotions overpromising or overhyping the newsletter? That may bring in a lot of new subscribers – who won’t actually read the newsletter.

Dig into your subscriber data to see how many people have never opened the newsletter. If the numbers are high, that may mean the subject lines aren’t living up to the hype. Or it may indicate that bots, pranksters, and others who have no intent of reading the newsletter are signing up.

To prevent such abuse, many publishers have instituted a double opt-in process, where the new subscriber must click a button in a confirmation email to activate her subscription. Another common tactic is a welcome email that confirms the subscription, tells the subscriber what to expect from the newsletter – such as when it’s delivered and what it will cover – and sometimes provides a few links to popular evergreen articles.

What about paid subscribers? Try sending a personal email (there are ways to automate the process), which the inactive subscriber is more likely to see than another newsletter blast. You may get a change-of-email-address notice in reply. And perhaps end up renewing a subscriber who otherwise would be lost.

Migrate Facebook Followers Now to Opt-in Email Lists

If you use Facebook in your marketing mix, there are new concerns about user engagement, suggesting you need to be more proactive than before about migrating your “followers” to your opt-in email list. During the past couple of years, my observation, now backed up with research, reveals that fewer people …

facebook email logoIf you use Facebook in your marketing mix, there are new concerns about user engagement, suggesting you need to be more proactive than before about migrating your Facebook “followers” to your opt-in email list. During the past couple of years, my observation, now backed up with research, reveals that fewer people are posting updates about their lives and instead have moved on to sharing news (often “faux news” with spammy clickbait headlines), videos and stuff having little to do with themselves.

The drop is significant: 21 percent fewer posts with users’ own words and images from 2014 to 2015, and a 5.5 percent drop in sharing, according to a report in Inc. and The Information.

Why Facebook Followers Are Risky

Why is this bad news? Because sharing life events is the magnetic allure of Facebook that keeps users coming back. But if users aren’t sharing updates about themselves as much, and instead are posting faux news and cute animal videos, it stands to reason that Facebook users will engage less frequently or move on to other platforms where sharing is still predominant.

As to why people aren’t sharing as much, I posed that question on my own Facebook page, and a friend wrote this:

“I love connecting with friends and family who live far from me. But, as you have observed, fewer of these folks are posting personal photos/content. I have heard comments about:

• Fear of predators who see photos of children and then stalk them;

• Fear of current or future employers using your posts of party activities (toasting with an adult beverage) or concerts against you;

• General lack of privacy even when you think you’ve tightened your settings;

• Dislike for the targeted advertising — I post something about back pain and then I get ads and junk emails for related products;

• The systematic way Facebook decided what/who you prefer to see, even when you have marked the pages and people you want to follow first.”

5 Ways to Encourage Facebook-to-Email Opt-Ins

As a marketer, if you have followers on Facebook or any other social media, remember that you are merely “renting” the privilege of communicating with them. You don’t “own” the name as you would with your postal or email list. Here are some actions you can take to migrate Facebook followers to opt-in to email:

  1. Aggressively encourage your followers to opt-in to your email list. In the apps section on your Facebook business or organization page, you can embed a link within Facebook to opt-in to your email list, integrating with an email marketing system, such as Mailchimp or others.
  2. Encourage followers to click on posts that lead to your website, and when they do, encourage them to opt-in to your email list. While most of us as consumers may not like pop-ups on websites, they work for building an opt-in list.
  3. You need strong headlines to earn clicks. With so many spammy clickbait headlines and faux news stories, be mindful about how you entice followers to click on your posts. Build trust with credible content.
  4. Your posts are going to sink down the news feed quickly. You have a couple of options: Post multiple times daily (some have found that four times per day is optimal, but change out the content each time), or pay to play with sponsored posts where you set the audience, amount you’ll spend and length of time the post will be boosted.
  5. Consider creating a custom audience using Facebook remarketing ads. After adding a pixel to your website, you can serve ads to people who visited within the past 180 days. This is one more tool to bring people back to your website to opt-in (or better, make a purchase).

The gold standard for generating conversions and higher ROI is email and postal mail. If you think you can completely replace these channels by posting to your followers on Facebook, your marketing performance will surely disappoint as Facebook risks becoming less about people sharing their lives.

My advice for a back-up plan: Don’t abandon Facebook. I’m certainly not jumping off the Facebook wagon for any of my clients, but work harder to grow your “earned” email list now, so you own the name.

(Want more tips and advice about how to align your messaging with how the primitive mind thinks so you can attract more customers? I’ve put together a seven-step guide to help you titled “When You Need More Customers, This Is What You Do.” Or get all the details in my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code” available at the DirectMarketingIQ bookstore.)

Mail-to-Email Conversions

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and our best efforts have consistently included direct mail

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and while we’ve published a few eBooks on the topic with myriad fodder, our best efforts have consistently come from those that include direct mail.

As most of you know, renting, purchasing, borrowing and partnering in order to email clients in a lead generation effort is fraught with risks ranging from simply annoying your customers to losing sending privileges through your ESP. Though many claim that a mailbox full of junk mail is akin to an inbox full of spam, the effort it takes to remove oneself from a direct-mail list just seems too burdensome for most of us and we will continue to allow a company to burn through paper and postage despite our complete lack of interest in their message well beyond our initial feelings of annoyance. Whereas with email, the spam button, unsubscribe link or reply email is simply far too easy and thus instills extreme power and often unwarranted indignation when a brand should dare email us any type of unsolicited content. We’re not only quick to unsubscribe, if it happens again, we’re likely to fire off an irate email and even go so far as to report them to their ISP or ESP. This can cause permanent damage to the brand and inhibit their ability to send future emails.

Given these risks, we’ve found that the best way to approach lead generation is through the combined use of print and email. Rather than hazard the acquisition of a list of persons who did not specifically subscribe to receive our messages, Spider Trainers counsels clients to purchase the same list selects as a direct-mail list and forgo the email address—we will collect this later. Direct-mail lists are typically less or even much less costly than an email list, and this cost savings can be applied toward the postage and printing costs of a direct mail.

The direct-mail piece is used to entice engagement through the use of a high-value offer that drives traffic to a targeted squeeze page and, in many cases, from there to a microsite focused either on introducing the brand or introducing the product, depending upon how recognizable the brand is to the audience.

FruitRevival (a company providing recurring fresh-fruit delivery to Denver businesses), is in the process of launching just such a campaign. We created a square postcard (we have found that square postcards have a measurably higher engagement rate) for their list segmented as: newly rented direct-mail names, customers who have purchased a fruit gift box, and customers who have received a fruit gift box. Three different headlines and matching copy provide an A/B testing platform along with a call to action (CTA) for a free sample box delivered to themselves or to a person they choose.

Using this high-value CTA, FruitRevival hopes to attract the postcard recipients to their squeeze page where they will collect their email address as well as responses to five very simple questions. Lead scoring of responses will flag recipients ready for immediate sales follow-up (high scorers), move them into an active nurturing campaign (mid-range scorers), or drop them into the drip campaign (low scorers).

Keep your eye on two big rocks: the higher the value of the gift, the higher the conversion rate, and the more focused your list, the more likely the audience will be receptive to the offer. With the right combination, you can easily far surpass the engagement rates you will get with an email list that has not specifically opted in to your messages.

Ladies? Who You Calling a Lady?

The email subject line had so many things wrong with it that I just had to investigate further. “Advertising to ladies is easier then (sic) you thought.” The offer was for an email list (I think—the email itself was so poorly designed it was hard to tell) but the term “ladies” felt offensive somehow. Perhaps the problem was in my head

The email subject line had so many things wrong with it that I just had to investigate further.

“Advertising to ladies is easier then (sic) you thought.”

The offer was for an email list (I think—the email itself was so poorly designed it was hard to tell) but the term “ladies” felt offensive somehow. Perhaps the problem was in my head. A previous employer had always approached any group of women gathered in one place and would slowly say, “Well… hello.. ladies…” in such a derogatory tone, that we would all cringe.

Or perhaps the problem is that my fairly strict British/Canadian upbringing always led me to think of the term “ladies” as a throwback to the 18th Century.

The email continued its pitch for the availability of lists of individuals “… awaiting offers related to ladies, men, zoomers, students, sports …”—and there was that term “ladies” again. Is it just me who finds that term offensive?

I checked out the definition at freeonlinedictionary.com, and it seems my negative reaction may be well justified. While there were 15 different descriptions, the first was that a lady is, “a well-mannered and considerate woman with high standards of proper behavior.”

While not offensive, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t describe the available target audience because that would be a pretty small list circ. But wait … there’s more …

Perhaps this particular marketer felt they had a list of women who met one of the other definitions of lady:

  1. A woman regarded as proper and virtuous.
  2. A well-behaved young girl.
  3. A woman who is the head of a household.
  4. A woman, especially when spoken of or to in a polite way.
  5. A woman to whom a man is romantically attached.
  6. A wife.
  7. A general feminine title of nobility and other rank
  8. The Virgin Mary. Usually used with Our.

No, I’m fairly confident that none of these applied (unless it was lucky No. 3)—but the most interesting insight was in the Usage note: The attributive use of lady, as in lady doctor, is offensive and outdated. When the sex of the person is relevant, the preferred modifier is woman or female.

Whew … so it wasn’t just in my head!

As marketers, we need to choose our words carefully. Make sure they adequately and accurately express our intended meaning and, most importantly, don’t offend anyone.

Especially us ladies …

Crack the Email Prospecting Code

Email marketing has become a vital tool for direct marketers. But if you want to expand your email reach by renting and emailing a permission-based email list, you need to understand the complete measurement process to maximize profitability. If you don’t thoughtfully run the numbers, especially when renting a list of unproven email addresses, your dream of profits can be quickly dashed.

Email marketing has become a vital tool for direct marketers. But if you want to expand your email reach by renting and emailing a permission-based email list, you need to understand the complete measurement process to maximize profitability. If you don’t thoughtfully run the numbers, especially when renting a list of unproven email addresses, your dream of profits can be quickly dashed.

A traditional direct marketer recognizes why running the numbers is essential, but new entrants into DM often don’t have the foundational knowledge of how to run the numbers. Their expectations are that when they send out tens of thousands—even millions—of emails, it’s going to automatically be profitable. Even with relatively inexpensive email lists, making a profit sending email to a rented list is far from assured.

But you can get to the profit side when you understand that long-term value from repeat future purchases turns the loss from the first purchase into future profit. By understanding the long-term value of a customer, you know how much you can spend (or invest) to acquire a new customer.

It’s vital to understand how to calculate allowable marketing costs and how to create a long-term value model (learn more in my Four-Part Series on Marketing Costs here at Target Marketing by following the links). An allowable marketing cost is simply the remaining portion of a sales dollar after cost of goods, fulfillment, overhead and profit objectives are allocated to their respective budget line items.

Increasing (or reducing) your allowable marketing cost will depend on how you view long-term value. That is, how many times, and at what average order, would you expect a newly acquired customer to purchase from you over a given period of time into the future (perhaps it is six months, maybe even a year).

The table accompanying this blog gives a couple of scenarios for B-to-C and B-to-B examples. In the B-to-C scenarios, we assume the allowable marketing cost to acquire a new customer to be $50. Based on the assumption that the email costs $70 per thousand for a permission-based email, and a clickthrough (based on emails delivered) of 0.8 percent, or 8 clicks, then 1.4 of those clicks (or 18 percent) must convert to sales. Or, if the click-through rate is 0.5 percent of emails delivered, then the conversion must be 28 percent. B-to-B examples are shown because the cost of lists and allowable marketing costs are usually higher than B-to-C.

When you identify the conversion percentage required to break-even, you have a benchmark. Then apply a test of reasonableness to determine if you should move forward with your test. A B-to-C conversion of 18 percent or 28 percent may be achievable, but it could be quite optimistic.

Also, remember there are several variables that will go into the email prospecting effort that impact your results. The quality of the list, from line, subject line, messaging, landing page creative, offer and more all factor into the overall performance of the email marketing effort.

When you get someone to your landing page, it’s smart to invite the individual to opt-in to your email list. Give them something free and of value so they will feel comfortable giving you their email address. Then you can email future offers to them without the cost of email prospecting.

If you decide to use email prospecting, remember these points:

  1. You probably won’t make money in email prospecting (if you do, you’re the exception).
  2. The email list you rent needs to be pre-qualified and, of course, CAN SPAM compliant.
  3. Email tends to work better the more times you email someone. Open rates tend to improve with appropriate frequency.
  4. Don’t forget: your most important objective might not be to sell something in the first effort, but rather, to build an opt-in email list that you can call your own.

B-to-C Scenario 1

B-to-C Scenario 2

B-to-B Scenario 1

B-to-B Scenario 2

Permission-Based Email Quantity

1,000

1,000

1,000

1,000

Cost Per Thousand

$70.00

$70.00

$120.00

$120.00

Allowable Marketing Cost/Buyer

$50.00

$50.00

$250.00

$250.00

Open Rate

8%

5%

8%

5%

Click-Through Rate/Delivered Emails

0.80%

0.50%

0.80%

0.50%

Number of Opens

80

50

80

50

Number of Click-Thrus to Landing Page

8

5

8

5

No. Conversions Required

1.4

1.4

0.5

0.5

% Conversion Required

18%

28%

6%

10%

My 9 Insider Tips to Build Your Email List For Low or No Cost!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel.

A popular business model by many online publishers is to bring in leads at the “free” level (i.e. report, e-newsletter, webinar, white paper, etc.), add those names to their house list and typically over the course of 30 to 90 days (the bonding time) that lead will convert into a paying customer. This practice is known as lead generation, name collection or list-building efforts.

Today, I’m going to share with you some proven online marketing methods I’ve used and had great success with at some of the top publishers in America. And bonus … many of these tactics are low- or no-cost. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Power eAcquisition Polls. In my last blog post, I wrote about using polls for lead generation. Incorporating a poll on your website or having a poll on another site is a great way to build your list. It’s important to spend time thinking about your poll question—something that is a hot topic, controversial and relevant to the locations where you’re placing your poll. You want to pull people in with your headline and make the poll entertaining. Your answers should be multiple choice and have an “other” field, which encourages participants to engage with your question. I’ve found this “other” field as a fantastic way to make the poll interactive. Many people are passionate about certain subject matters and won’t mind giving you their two cents. Then, to show appreciation for talking the poll, tell participants they are getting a bonus report and a free e-newsletter subscription (which they can opt out of at any time). And of course, make sure to mention—and link to—your privacy/anti spam policy. After you kick off your list-building efforts, make sure you start tracking them so you can quantify the time and resources spent. This involves working with your webmaster on setting up tracking URLs specific to each website you’re advertising on. It also means looking at Google Analytics for your website and corresponding landing pages to see traffic and referring page sources.

Teleseminars or Webinars. This is a great way to collect qualified names. Promote a free, relevant and value-oriented teleseminar or webinar to targeted prospects. You can promote it through several organic (free) tactics, such as LinkedIn Groups/Events, Facebook Events, Twitter, online press releases, affiliate marketing/joint ventures. Remember, this is for lead generation, not bonding. So your goal is to cast a wide net outside of your existing list, create visibility and get new names. Your value proposition should be actionable, relevant information that your target audience would find useful and worth giving their email address for. The trick is to promote the event in as many places as possible without incurring advertising costs; then your only costs may be the set up of the conference call (multiple lines, 800#) or webinar platform. And, in case you were wondering, I have been involved with teleseminars with non-toll-free numbers and response rates were not greatly impacted.

Co-registration. Co-Reg is another way to collect names, but involves a nominal fee. Co-Reg is when you place a small ad on another publisher’s site after some sort of transaction (albeit a sales or lead-gen offer). So, for instance, after someone signs up to the AOL Travel eNewsletter, a Thank You page comes up with a list of sponsors the reader may find interesting, as well—other free e-newsletter offers. The text ad is usually accompanied by a small graphic image representing the sponsor. The key here is to pick publishers and Co-Reg placements that are synergistic to your own publication and offer. Another important note is to make sure you follow up quickly to these names so they don’t forget who you are and go cold quite fast. I suggest a dedicated auto responder series for bonding and monetization. Co-Reg efforts can cost you around $1 to $3 per valid email address.

Frienemy Marketing. This includes JVs (joint ventures), affiliate marketing, guest editorials, editorial contributions and reciprocal ad swaps (for leads generation or revenue sharing). This tactic is extremely effective and cost-efficient. The key here is having some kind of leverage, then approaching publishers who may want your content or a cross-marketing opportunity to your current list (note: This only works if you have a list of decent size that another publisher will find attractive). In exchange for content or revenue share efforts, you and the other publisher agree to reciprocate either e-news ads or solo emails to each other’s lists, thereby sending a message to a targeted, relevant list for free. Well, if you agree on a rev share, it’s free as far as ad costs, but you are giving that publisher a split of your net revenues.

SONAR Marketing. I’ve written about this many times, but can’t stress it enough. Content is king and you can leverage it via what I call “SONAR.” It’s an organic (free) online strategy that works with the search engines. It’s a comprehensive method of repurposing, reusing, distributing and synchronizing the release of relevant, original content (albeit text, audio, video) to targeted online channels based on your audience. SONAR represents the following online distribution platforms:

S Syndicate partners, content syndication networks and user-generated content sites
O Online press releases
N Network (social) communities
A Article directories
R Relevant posts to blogs, forums and bulletin boards.

SONAR works hand-in-hand with your existing search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM) and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

Search Engine Marketing. It’s a shame more marketers don’t see the value of SEO or SEM. In order to drive as much organic traffic as possible to your website, you need to make sure your site is optimized for the correct keywords and your target audience. Once you optimize your site with title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and relevant, keyword-dense content, you need to make sure you have revised your site to harness the traffic that will be coming. That means adding eye-catching email collection boxes to your home page (and it’s static on all your subpages), relevant banners and obvious links to e-comm webpages. You don’t want to miss a single opportunity to turn traffic into leads or sales.

Smart Media Buying. To complement your free online efforts, you may want to consider targeted, low-cost media buys (paid online advertising) in the form of text ads, banner ads, blog ads or list rentals (i.e. e-news sponsorships or solo emails). You’re paying for the placement in these locations, so you must make sure you have strong promotional copy and offers for the best results possible. High-traffic blogs are a high-performing, low-cost way to test new creatives. I like BlogAds.com network and you can buy placements a la carte and search by genre.

Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. You must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management, which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

Viral Marketing. Make sure you have a “forward to friend” feature in your e-newsletter to encourage viral marketing. It’s also important to have a content syndication blurb in your newsletter; this also encourages other websites, publishers, editors and bloggers to republish and share your content, as long as they give you author attribution and a back-link to your site (which helps in SEM).

The following, in my personal experience, doesn’t work for quality list building …

Sweepstakes and Giveaways. You’ve seen the offers: Win a free TV, iPhone or similar in exchange for your email address. This gets the volume, but the leads are usually poor quality or unqualified (irrelevant). The numbers may look good on the front end, but when you dig deeper, your list is likely compromised with deliverability issues (high bounce rates), inactives and bad emails. This is because the leads are not targeted. The offer wasn’t targeted or synergistic with the company. With lead generation efforts, it should be quality over quantity.

Email appends. According to Wikipedia, email appending, also known as e-appending, is a marketing practice that involves taking known customer data (first name, last name and postal address) and matching it against a vendor’s database to obtain email addresses. The purpose is to grow one’s email subscriber list with the intent of sending customers information via email instead of through traditional direct “snail” mail. The problem with this, in my direct experience, is that on the front end your list initially grows, but these names are not typically qualified or interested. At one company where I worked, we tracked a group of email append cohorts over the course of a year to see what percent would “convert” to a paying customer. Nearly 75 percent of the names dropped off the file during that year and never even converted. Email appending is a controversial tactic, with critics claiming that sending email to people who never explicitly opted-in is against best practices. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time and money.

Get Ready for 2013: Customer Acquisition Emails

Acquiring long-term platinum customers is much harder today than it was even a decade ago. The globalization of the marketplace created an environment where people have access to multiple choices for every product or service they want to buy. This availability has created an environment where long-term customer loyalty has been replaced by hit-and-run shoppers. The only way to offset this to create a relationship with your customers that makes them want to stay with your company even when the competition offers lower prices and faster service.

Acquiring long-term platinum customers is much harder today than it was even a decade ago. The globalization of the marketplace created an environment where people have access to multiple choices for every product or service they want to buy; a simple search on Google for any item or service will reveal a multitude of choices at a variety of prices.

This availability has created an environment where long-term customer loyalty has been replaced by hit-and-run shoppers. The only way to offset this to create a relationship with your customers that makes them want to stay with your company even when the competition offers lower prices and faster service.

Relationships begin at the first contact point. Prospects who sign up for your email list have different expectations than your customers. Sending them the same promotional emails may convert a few, but it will not create the foundation for a long-term lasting relationship. People need to know they’re valued. The best way to communicate that is by creating customized emails designed to woo prospects into becoming customers. The same technological advances that increased your competition also make it easier and more economical to connect with people.

Every email marketing strategy needs a triggered systematic campaign designed to convert prospects into customers. Most companies have a welcome email automatically triggers when someone subscribes to their email list but very few businesses follow-up with additional emails that communicate information about the company products and services. It’s as if they presume that everyone knows everything there is to know about their company.

People subscribe to email lists for a variety of reasons. Some are simply looking for discount offers, others want to learn more about the products and services. Failure to take advantage of the opportunity to share information with people who have indicated they want to know more is a waste. The cost is minimal. The potential return is huge. If you do not have a customized prospect conversion strategy, you are squandering an opportunity to build a foundation for long-term customer loyalty.

It’s almost impossible to identify the prospects with long-term customer potential. The only information you have available is the original source and what people choose to share. Requiring additional information to better qualify subscribers is counterproductive—long sign-up forms yield fewer subscribers. The objective of your sign-up form is to gain permission to email prospects. The trigger emails following subscription can be used together additional information as well as convert the subscribers.

Start with a welcome email that thanks people for subscribing. Ask if they will share their preferences so you only send relevant emails. Be very careful with this. Do not ask what the subscribers want if you are not going to honor their wishes, it will alienate your prospects. If you choose to ask the questions, limit them to five. Keep them on one page above the fold with the save button in clear view. People’s eyes start to glazing over when they see a long list of questions.

The emails following the welcome letter need to build trust, provide relevant information and match the preferences indicated earlier. Don’t presume your prospects know about your top-notch service, liberal return policy or special promotions. If they do, the emails will serve as a reminder. If they don’t, providing the information is a service. Including customer testimonials and product reviews provide social proof and help establish trust.

Here are some do’s and don’ts for creating a triggered welcome email campaign:

  • Do include an added bonus in every email. This can be as simple as providing tips. For example, a B-to-C business selling cookware could offer recipes and cooking tips. A B-to-B company selling office supplies could offer productivity tips.
  • Don’t overwhelm new subscribers by bombarding them with emails. Test different delivery times and spacing to find the best strategy.
  • Do provide links to your website and additional information in every email. Always gives people a place to go and easy way to get there if they want more.
  • Don’t include icons for social media sites without providing a call to action. Give people a reason to connect with you on the other channels.
  • Do test everything. What works for your competitor may fail for you and vice versa.
  • Don’t think of your welcome email campaign as “set it and forget it” marketing. Strive for continuous improvement to maximize your return.