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Nov 06, 2012
How To

Email Marketing How-to: What to do once they've subscribed

SUMMARY: Email subscribers can be skittish and wary, particularly after just signing up for your email list. A recent MarketingSherpa webinar, "Three Strategies to Convert New Subscribers to Loyal Buyers," focused on three tactics for optimizing your email campaign to create long-term relationships with subscribers.

In this webinar recap, learn to ease new subscribers' fears and lead them to conversion. Gradually get to know your subscribers, and turn them into loyal buyers by utilizing the following three tactics.
by Courtney Eckerle, Reporter

"Even as email marketing becomes an elder in the family of marketing tactics, practitioners are still having trouble sending relevant communications," said W. Jeffrey Rice, author of the MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report.

"Only 28% of marketers reported that their messages contained relevant content, sent on time, and sent to their subscribers [with] a clear conversion goal," Rice added, further citing the report.

According to Rice, email marketers need to address the problem of how to create an optimal onboard experience to build a long-term customer relationship with the subscriber.

"Just like in life, it is critical to make a great first impression," Rice said.

Rice and Meghan Lockwood, Senior Research Analyst, MECLABS, solve this problem with three strategies to convert new subscribers to loyal customers. The webinar can be viewed in full below.

Tactic #1. Invest in long-term relationships

"I just want to remind you that a subscriber is not just an email address. Thereís an actual person attached that youíre communicating with," Rice said. "If you start with the understanding that all marketing comes down to relationships, you need to be ready to improvise as the relationship progresses over time."

He lists three keys to making a long-term investment in a new subscriber:
  • Make a good first impression

  • Gradually learn more about the subscriber

  • Extend the conversation with a welcome series

Make a good first impression

"People do not fall into your sales and marketing funnel. Itís not a fall, itís a climb," said Rice. "Itís a climb onto a steep mountain where each customer makes a conscious micro decision to move forward. Ö Marketers must keep helping them up this funnel, fighting against the constant pull of gravity, which slows the sales process."

To help subscribers overcome the friction and downward forces that face them at every micro decision, marketers must lend them a helping hand. Sharing information of value to the consumer --, information that will make their life or job easier -- creates an emotional connection and will leave an enduring positive impression.

Newsletters, welcome emails and nurturing campaigns can be excellent opportunities to lay a foundation of trust, and this is especially true when the sale is not imminent.

As a way of showing this good grace to subscribers, Rice encourages the practice of paying it forward.

"The act of giving without any expectation shines a positive light on your brand and distinguishes it from the cold business of facts and figures. Again, marketing is about relationships. When you respect the reader enough to reveal your culture, demonstrate your culture Ö and serve their needs, youíre going to effectively engage."

Single opt-in welcome messages
  • Remind the subscriber of where and how they opted-in to your list.

  • Deliver value immediately, because, "as in most relationships, manners are important," Rice said. He advises starting with a sincere thank-you. Give more than expected, share evergreen content (past newsletters, video links, webinars or podcasts), and give a discount or exclusive access.

  • Confirm content and frequency expectations.

"You also want to consider asking to be whitelisted," Rice adds. Whitelisting provides subscribers the opportunity to do something to ensure their own deliverability.

"Whitelisting, yes itís a falling best practice because ISPs are looking at engagement practices and sender reputations, but whitelisting is still critical, especially when you first send a welcome email message."

Additionally, the initial welcome emails should feature links to both the unsubscribe and privacy settings.

"If a subscriber has buyerís remorse and wants to unsubscribe, let them. It doesnít hurt your deliverability at all. For people who are worried about what a company is going to do with their email address, you really want to calm their fears," said Rice.

Gradually learn more about the subscriber

"You want to take it slow. Just like when you go on a first date, you donít want to ask someone their whole life story. Ö You want to get to know them on a gradual pace," Rice said.

Since opt-in pages request as little information as possible, take advantage of the high open rates of welcome emails to ask follow-up questions. Doing this will harvest more data and remind the subscriber of the win-win proposition.

This is an opportunity to obtain additional demographic and preference data. By including a link to a preference center, you will collect more data to better customize your emails and offers to the subscriberís specific desires.

Extend the conversation with a welcome series

To illustrate this idea, Lockwood cites a MarketingSherpa case study of StudentBean.com, who set up its own welcome series.

In this case study, StudentBean.comís first step was setting up timing to where those who opted in received a confirmation email immediately, and a welcome email 24 hours later. The welcome series spanned six days total.

Rice advises two general objectives to abide by for setting up a welcome series:
  • Design the first welcome email: The first emailís goal was alerting the subscribers to the upcoming messages. This email is a reminder of the value of subscription.

  • Set up offer strategy: Except for first email, each email should feature a single offer to spur action, based on popularity and profitability, as well as customized by location and self-reported gender.

The goal of the series of emails is to quickly move the subscriber from "kicking the tires" to an educated buyer. Give the new opt-in something to look forward to with a popular strategy of developing a four-part series or a five-week education course.

"You want to create content that theyíre going to look forward to and anticipate receiving," Rice said.

For more information on starting a welcome series, read the full MarketingSherpa case study, "Email Marketing: Six-email welcome increases revenue 13%, open rate 66%."

Tactic #2. Increase responsiveness

"The second step to converting subscribers to loyal buyers is to really focus on increasing the responsiveness," said Rice.

To increase responsiveness, Rice recommends automated emails, especially for the initial welcome email.

Automated emails are a single or series of emails created by a defined set of rules based on dates, events or behaviors that are automatically sent to a subscriber, and they consistently achieve higher open rates due to timing and relevancy. Research in the 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report shows that 80% of organizations already send automated welcome emails.

"For many, the importance of the welcome email message cannot be understated. This is the first two-way conversation that prospects are going to have with your brand. Hopefully this is going to be the first step in transforming them from a fan to a customer to a brand advocate," said Rice.

Tactic #3. Reduce reader anxiety

Lockwood sites a MarketingSherpa case study to illustrate a reduction of reader anxiety with a campaign by SavvyMom, a Canadian digital publisher.

SavvyMomís first step was to define its messages and timing with the readers' perspective in mind. This allowed the digital publisher to anticipate any needs or anxiety the readers might face.

The overall goal of the series was to gradually warm the readers up to the brand, and then to teach them how they can best engage with it.

The purpose of the first message was to guide subscribers to their next step, the second message to enhance the subscriber experience, and the third message increased the awareness of future emails.

Personalizing content was SavvyMomís next step. The personalization was based off how subscribers signed up. If they had done so through the website, dynamic text filled in the readerís name and simply thanked them. If they had entered through one of SavvyMomís contests, dynamic text reminded readers of the contest name.

For more information on reducing subscriber anxiety, read the full MarketingSherpa case study, "Email Marketing Case Study: 5-step update of welcome campaign leads to 450% increase in new subscriber clickthrough rate."

Communicate cautiously

Immediately sending a welcome message can prevent future spam complaints while reinforcing expectations set during the opt-in process. This is a place to confirm the subscription, and restate the frequency to the subscriber.

Rice also suggests sending a double opt-in welcome message from a separate server until you determine the addresses are accurate, to avoid hurting the sender reputation of your main IP address.

Establish explicit expectations

Rice suggests the following steps to establish expectations and reduce anxiety:
  • WHAT Ė Clearly state what type of content you will be sending

  • WHEN Ė Identify how often you will be sending email communications

  • WHY Ė Spell out the features and benefits to crystallize your value proposition

  • WORRY Ė Add a link to your privacy policy

"You have earned a click to your registration page. Thatís huge, thatís a gigantic win. So you want to maintain that momentum by paving a path of logical next step for new subscribers to follow," Rice said.

To establish those expectations with regard to design, Rice advises reviewing registration page design to maintain creative consistency. The registration pageís style should be similar to the style of the ad or email that brought visitors to it.

With a consistent brand image, language and tone, the potential subscriber will be comforted in knowing he or she has landed on the correct page.

This comfort also relies on keeping the page clean of clutter and multiple messages, said Rice, adding, "It is critical that you just have one purpose."

Finally, Rice says the key to enacting these tactics is to "review your email from your subscriberís point of view." The brand definition of compelling content may differ from recipientsí, and consistently delivering what was promised to the subscriber, with consideration to their needs, should be the primary goal of marketers.

Watch the Replay

For more information on email marketing solutions, download the slides from this webinar or watch the full replay of "Three Strategies to Convert New Subscribers to Loyal Buyers" below:



Related Resources

Download the free excerpt of the 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report

Bronto Ė The Marketing Platform for Commerce

Webinar Replay -- How-To: Best Serve Email Subscribers Through the Entire Customer Lifecycle

List Growth Tactics: How Kodak added 33% more email subscribers and 53% more YouTube followers

Email Marketing: 91% of marketers find target audience testing effective (via MarketingExperiments)

Email Marketing: How to sprinkle subscribers with a well-timed welcome in 5 steps

Email Messaging: How your peers craft emails for conversion (via MarketingExperiments)

Marketing Research Chart: Capture subscribers with top list building tactics

Comments about this How To

Feb 07, 2013 - Festal of self says:
I'm here because I stumbled on your site while trying to find ways to reduce unsolicited email. Your focus is all wrong. Marketing is about "TRUST", a word that I don't see in most of your methods and means discussions. You're right, getting my email in an opt-in is HUGE. If you want to consolidate and build on that trust, here are the essential things to do: 1) Provide reply functions that work. How do you expect to engender trust if you insist on holding power to ask for my attention, but refuse to allow me the same privilege on an equal footing? 2) Don't obfuscate any of the links in your email messages - the links should be free of tracking obfuscations that tell me you are covertly surveilling my clicks. The links should all be directly to your website and to intuitively relevant to the opt-in. None of the links should have fingerprints of third party services that have been outsourced and, if clicked, invite them to be participants in our trusted communication. 3) don't overkill. If I opt-in for special offers and you use that as license to send me daily or even weekly "hey look at this" - it doesn't feel like a "special offer" to me - it feels like dishonest labeling of run of the mill offers hyped up to look like "special". 4) finally, and this is the most important and critical. If I opt-in to communication with you, I should be able to opt-out by communicating with you. The standard practice in the industry of outsourcing list management to third parties is an offensive violation of trust. I gave you my email address with the understanding that you would honor a request to purge it from your directory when asked. Providing my contact information to anyone else without me explicitly opting-in (whether an affiliate, or outsourced service provider you hire), will engender distrust for you, your brand, and for e-commerce in general. Forcing me to perform an unsubscribe function with a third party further erodes trust and causes resentment. If I visit your website and opt-in, you had better make sure that the "opt-out" links are clearly directed to your URL and in the same domain that I was visiting when I opted-in. If not, as far as I'm concerned, it is SPAM, it places my email information at risk of being harvested by a third party with whom I have no trusted relationship. Bottom line- if you are going to contact me, you should provide equivalent means for me to reply. Avoid the offensive practice of covertly surveilling my clicks through the use of tagged links or obfuscated links. Honor my trust by keeping my address confidential - manage your listservice in-house. And, don't make me opt-out by having to go through a third party list management service in a different domain. I am not a mark. These offensive practices are all indicators that e-marketers who use them view their subscribers as marks rather than as trusted and valued clients.


Feb 08, 2013 - Selena Blue of MECLABS says:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on email marketing.



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