How to Lose an Audience in 10 Days

In the spirit of “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” my colleague Caitlin and I came up with the following four ways to make your audience hit the road and run into the arms of your very handsome competitor.

A couple months ago, my colleague Caitlin and I were discussing marketing over Pad Thai, and she threw out the idea of a post themed after the Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey gem, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” There’s a reason I hang out with Caitlin … she’s a smart cookie.

If you’re not familiar with the film’s plot, advice columnist Kate Hudson pitches the idea of all the crazy things a woman could do to make a man leave her in 10 days. Across town, advertising playboy Matthew McConaughey makes his own bet: that he can get a woman to fall in love with him ahead of a major event. Antics ensue, and needless to say, Roger Ebert was not a fan of this romcom.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
You mean, like a decent movie script?

So in the spirit of “How to Lose a Guy …” Caitlin and I went back and forth a bit, coming up with the following four ways to make your audience hit the road and run into the arms of your very handsome competitor:

1. Sending Mixed Messages … Does Your Audience Even Know You?

Inconsistent messaging — across  your brands and/or channels — simply does not fly. It’s like dating a dude who’s all over the place. And you know what they say: If he’s sending mixed messages, he’s just not that into you.

When you let your audience know you’re just not that into them — unlike the 20-something woman who cries to her besties over ice cream that “He seemed so into me, but then he stopped calling!” — your audience is not going to stick around trying to figure out what went wrong.

2. Just Like Forgetting to Make Reservations, You Forgot to Optimize for Mobile

How many times do you have to read that mobile isn’t just the “future” anymore? HELLO! It’s here, and consumers expect your website and content to be mobile-optimized. Do you expect the mobile-optimization fairy godmother to show up, fix your site and then leave? Well don’t hold your breath.

Well you failedWant a concrete example? Then consider this year’s Super Bowl — so much of the Big Game played out on the mobile and social (I actually watched the game on my ancient iPad because I don’t have cable!).

And let us not forget Gatorade’s special Super Bowl Snapchat filter (which received 160 million impressions).

If that’s not enough, then take it straight from the mouth of Google:

In the USA, 94 percent of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. Interestingly, 77 percent of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present.

3. Punching Above Your Weight

This never turns out well, and for marketers, this is more specifically the misstep of being inauthentic. Your audience can smell fake a mile away, so don’t be fake.

Sure, we all want to be relevant and timely, but if there’s a situation going on that your brand does not fit into, do not shoehorn it in. Because it never, EVER works (and then you get made fun of — or worse — on social media).

4 . ‘Please Stop Calling Me …”

“Thanks for the great date … I’ll call you,” she says.

Except, ok, she doesn’t right away. So … you call her. No answer, so you don’t leave a message. You call back later. Same deal, but this time you leave a voice mail … and then you do this 42 more times over the course of a week.

Stop It!No, really. Stop it. If you abuse your communication channels, be it phone or email, your audience is going to think you’re spamming them, when in your mind, you’re just really eager and excited. Like a puppy. Doesn’t everyone like puppies?

Set up a preference center and honor it. Communicate with your audience when they want it, and respect the fact that some people will be chill and accepting of all varieties of communication across channels, while other consumers are more selective. And that’s ok.

I love youIf you can’t manage to handle the four points above, well, I hate to say this, but your audience is going to wiggle out of your arms faster than that cat. And they’re going to take their money with them, too.



Turning Email and Social Synergy Into Opportunity

In marketing — as in candy bowls — chasing too much opportunity can produce nothing more than paralysis or, at best, a dilution of the effort when it’s spread too thinly.

Too much candy isn’t good for you. As appealing as that big bowl of M&Ms looks right now, you know that if you get even get close to it, you’re going to regret it.

The same can be true in marketing. Working with a marketer who is merging three email programs into one campaign management application, I realized very early that there was huge opportunity for synergy of content as well as cross-selling and promotion between the three brands. The marketer was very excited about the possibility of managing the programs in a true CRM-driven fashion. That was only possible once the programs were generated off the same database and integrated at the subscriber level. Until now, the best this marketer could do was run separate promotions with similar offers, then try to compare the impact on revenue and unsubscribes after the fact. There were never very promising results.

With everything managed in one solution, the field is open for new approaches. A quick diagram of the combined customer base by brand showed a very slim overlap between them. At first glance, that feels like all upside — what a great opportunity to expose each brand to new, known audiences. It’s a big bowl of untouched delicious chocolate!

Synergy situations like this do create opportunity. That can be very exciting. But before you get too swept up in dreaming big, consider how important it is to prioritize those opportunities. In marketing — as in candy bowls — chasing too much opportunity can produce nothing more than paralysis or, at best, a dilution of the effort when it’s spread too thinly.

Consider these factors to help prioritize the opportunities before you:

1. Permission. Never assume permission. Period. First, it may be illegal depending on the countries where you market. Second, it’s bad marketing. There’s plenty of cross-sellling opportunities along the existing permission grants that you own today. At the same time, encourage subscribers to sign up for more types of messages from other brands in your preference center.

Lest you falter in your steadfastness, take this tale to heart: We had one marketer recently suffer a big drop in sender reputation and inbox placement. We traced the high complaints to a few campaigns promoting retail partners. Even though it was the marketer’s brand, template and “from” line, subscribers thought the messages were actually from the partners. Complaints were very high, even though the partners were trusted brands themselves. Subscribers knew they didn’t sign up for email from those brands and didn’t stop to check to see if it was a cross-promotion. They just clicked the spam button. Even if you own the partner brands, don’t assume your subscribers know that. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to gain permission and earn it with every message you send.

2. Audience profile. You don’t have the time or resources to tackle every possible cross-promotion opportunity, so focus on the two to three that have the right criteria — reach, revenue and strategic importance. The latter is sometimes hard to gauge, but it usually involves business drivers, high-value customers or high-visibility projects. Balance those factors out in a spreadsheet so that you have real science behind your discussions. Make sure that every test has an actionable learning so that you can continue to improve and optimize.

3. Brand affinity. Just like in social marketing, customers who already trust you are the ones most likely to take your advice on cross-promotional purchases. Therefore, segment not just by permission status but also by the likelihood of brand affinity that will encourage cross-pollinization of the brands. For example, free online members may have a very low brand affinity and thus are least likely to welcome cross-promotions. Paid members who have purchased recently or have more than one product will be more likely to welcome upsell offers (and not complain).

4. Sales channel preference. A factor that became more important than we initially considered is sales channel — e.g., those who purchase in-store versus online. Not only are there demographic differences between the two, but there are also differences in the way email is used. For example, in this case email wasn’t very successful at encouraging in-store customers to purchase online, but it was effective in generating store traffic. Seems obvious now that we see the results, but of course the magic is in the discovery.

5. Customer life cycle. This is perhaps the most important factor. I’ve found time and again that marketers are way too confident in their assumptions about how interested consumers are in their offers. In fact, you have to start way back in the life cycle for cross-promotions, just as you would with new prospects (which, of course, many of these people are). Nurturing has to start with discovery and exploration. Too many times marketers hit prospects with offers well before they’ve established credibility with them or before they even acknowledge their own needs.

What have you learned from your efforts to create new revenue and customer satisfaction opportunities through data integration? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Dealing With This Season’s Burned Out Subscribers

In September, all email marketers have good intentions. They meticulously map out segmentations; plan a logical calendar to support strategic initiatives; and commit to holding firm on protecting margins, avoiding the trap of ever increasing sweeteners as we near the end of December.

In September, all email marketers have good intentions. They meticulously map out segmentations; plan a logical calendar to support strategic initiatives; and commit to holding firm on protecting margins, avoiding the trap of ever increasing sweeteners as we near the end of December.

Then reality sets in. Although this year has been significantly better than last year in terms of business buying and consumer spending, most email marketers are quickly caught up in the email marketing return on investment trap. When times are tough, the pressure goes up to send just one more email campaign in order to boost revenues and response.

That strategy can work in the short term, but come January, the reckoning takes hold. This is when email marketers must rebuild relationships sullied by overmailing and lack of targeting. Hopefully, your business can pause and take a deep breath in order to both slow down the frequency as well as improve customization and relevancy. If you still see low response rates and list fatigue, then it’s time for a strategy to win back your audience.

Strategies for winning back subscribers
A win-back strategy can be anything from a friendly reminder to visit the preference center to a full-on bribe, like offering a steep discount or free service if the subscriber clicks now. Test a few of these ideas on subscribers who didn’t open or click on your emails in December and January. After a few attempts to win them back, if you still don’t see any activity, it may be time to clear the dead wood from your file.

While suppressing data is an anathema to direct marketers’ hearts, clearing nonresponsive subscribers from your email marketing file can help with everything from reducing churn to lowering costs to improving the new engagement metrics used for inbox placement and deliverability. Logically, it makes sense. More active subscribers are more likely to respond.

Surprisingly, however, clearing nonactive addresses from your file also improves response. That boost in response isn’t just on the rate off of a smaller base, but is also on absolute response and revenue per subscriber. Why does this happen? By focusing on the needs of active subscribers, marketers improve relevancy and lower frequency. They start to segment their files with tighter subscriber profiles. Be sure to note that this is the opposite of what you’re able to do in the rush of end of year.

Even permission files end up with anywhere from 25 percent to 65 percent of inactive subscribers. These subscribers, despite giving permission at some point, haven’t opened, clicked or converted from email in the past year or more. Unfortunately, the fourth quarter is when most subscribers burn out. The overflowing inbox at a busy time of year just becomes too much. They tune out your messages if you’re not offering value. Pretty soon, ignoring your emails becomes a habit.

For a long time, it was widely believed to be reasonable to keep all those dead addresses on your file, as it didn’t cost much to mail them and having a larger denominator made complaint rates and other deliverability metrics seem lower. Plus, marketers are ever hopeful. Even if a subscriber hasn’t responded to their emails in a long time, they still believe that today’s message will be the one that rouses them to profitable response. Of course, very few of these sleepers ever wake up.

However, internet service providers and mailbox providers like Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail have long been suspicious of marketers who keep such nonresponsive data on their files, believing that they’re trying to game the system and escape penalties of higher complaint rates. In the past six months, all three global providers have introduced new metrics as well as new inbox management tools to help them see subscriber-level activity. MSN/Hotmail was the first to announce the use of activity measures to block senders from a particular subscriber’s inbox (I wrote about this in early September).

I’ve seen some success in win-back campaigns that respect subscribers, are honest about the offer in the subject line, and keep the message and tone in line with the brand. Test a few alternatives and segment as much as possible to improve relevancy as well. For example:

  • A publisher tested several approaches and found that “We hate spam, too. Change your email settings now” in the subject line was the best way to encourage 90-day nonactive readers to adjust frequency and title choices. Typically, I find that clarity trumps cleverness in a subject line. Just say clearly what the subscriber is being asked to do.
  • A retailer sent an email campaign to six-month inactive subscribers inviting them to vote for the brand’s next catalog cover. The engaging campaign consistently earned 25 percent clickthrough rates. By focusing on the click (the action needed to prove that the subscriber isn’t truly dead), the campaign earned a very high response rate. As a bonus, while many subscribers were on the company’s website they took advantage of specials offered on the landing page.
  • A retailer tested the effect of a win-back campaign versus lowering frequency to six-month inactive accounts. Lowering frequency is a commonly used tactic to respect nonresponding subscribers level of interest, but, of course, does nothing to actually engage them. The win-back strategy was the clear winner, earning a 10 percent response rate and $900K in revenue versus a 2 percent response rate and $150K in revenue from the segment that received lower frequency.

Let us know how you’ve successfully re-engaged subscribers by posting a comment below.