Today we have a guest blog post from my very good friend and seasoned email marketing veteran, Aubrey Stork.
Like other Email Marketers, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into finding fun and unique ways to build the opt-in subscriber lists for various organizations. The truth of the matter is, if you don’t continue to deliver on your promise, all your list-building efforts are for not; your list will erode as quickly as you can say “See ya later alligator!”
While some still use shady methods to minimize opt-outs like hiding the opt-out link and creating convoluted processes, retaining subscribers is best done through proper opt-in practices, optimal sending frequency and ensuring value is delivered with each and every communication.
Here are some of the biggest factors contributing to unsubscribes:
1. Shoddy Opt-in Process
Permission is paramount. While this point has been driven home for years, it’s still prevalent with many organizations who simply add addresses they think should be added to their mailing lists without proper permission. Marketers: list size is only one measurement of success. If your mailing list is massive, but no one on your list cares about what you have to say, what’s the point? Sending your message to those who haven’t opted-in not only goes against worldwide email best practices and is in direct violation of the E-Privacy Directive (and shortly CASL/FISA/Bill-C-28 in Canada), but it’s also a great disservice to your brand and will result in higher opt-out rates.
Single opt-in’s can also be an invitation for illegitimate sign-ups, so implement a double-opt in to maintain the integrity of your list. Though on the surface, marketers see the double opt-in as an impedance to the process, it’s actually a fantastic opportunity. Your new subscriber is more likely to open your double opt-in and welcome email than any other communication through your entire email relationship. Take advantage and use these pieces as up-sell and profile-development opportunities.
2. Unfulfilled Promises
Sign-up now and get a free week membership!
Sign-up now to access your free white paper!
Sign-up today and receive a $50 gift card!
These incentives may be enough to get the opt-in, but it does little to set the expectation for the ongoing email relationship and may therefore translate to poor subscriber quality. Tell the potential subscriber how you’re going to continue to provide value. Include the ongoing promise in the call-to-action. For example, “Sign-up now to access your free white paper and receive exclusive access to research every quarter!”
During the sign-up process, include a link to your latest newsletter to demonstrate that you’re living up to your promise and continuing to offer value to subscribers.
3. Wrong Frequency
Frequency is a balancing act. With consumers being exposed to as many as 5,000 brands each day, you don’t want to inundate your subscribers with information too frequently, but you need also need to stay present so that they don’t forget who you are and the value you bring.
Some studies show that a communication every 3-4 weeks is ideal, however; this really depends on your business, your customers/subscriber base and your content.
One of the key benefits to email is the ability to run tests and get quick, accurate results. So, see what difference a week makes with your subscribers and try testing frequency: Take 2 samples of your database. Send to 1 sample a week in advance of your regular sending time. Send to the other sample 1 week after your normal sending time. See how they compare to the rest of your subscribers. Were the open rates higher? How about the click-through rates? If there’s no significant difference, keep this going for a few months (4-6 months should begin to show some variance). Continue this sort of test to further refine and find the optimal frequency foryour subscriber base.*
Your optimal frequency can also be driven by content, which brings us to the next point…
4. Poor Content
While still considering all of the above, if you have an engaged audience who recognizes the value of your email, frequency will matter less than an exchange of valuable content. The biggest factor driving opt-outs is irrelevant or too much content within a given communication. Another key benefit of email is the ability to easily target your message. Make sure everyone your sending to will care about what you have to say: target your messages accordingly.
If you’re trying to maintain a certain frequency but you don’t have content to pique the interest of everyone in your database, consider the following:
- Add dynamic content to ensure that regardless of the story/stories being featured, there’s something individually pertinent to each recipient. For example, if you’re a Realtor and you’re sending information to your client base on increasing rates, someone who just locked into their mortgage for 5 years may not be interested, however; if you can highlight homes in the specific recipient’s area, this will provide value to the subscriber. Or, if you run a gym you could include an exercise of the week that’s tailored to the type of workout the recipient does (cardio, weights, classes, etc.) alongside your primary message.
- Include polls. If you include a poll, regardless of the editorial content, you’re providing something for your subscriber to engage with, not to mention that polls can build on your recipient profiles which can in turn help you continue to refine and tailor your content.
- Include social feeds. Similar to polls, this could be another way to engage your subscriber. Even if your recipient doesn’t relate to the content in your current newsletter, the communication is an opportunity to build brand ambassadors in the social space. Get them involved by showing the latest – and most compelling – conversations about your organization on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
If you have the opposite problem, too much content, organize it dynamically or target reordered variations of your message based on the recipient’s profile or past interaction(s) with your newsletter(s). In any case, keep the content within your newsletter to a minimum. Include teaser-text and link out to the full story, not only to keep the message clean and clear, but also to be able to accurately measure engagement and better understand the kind of information most important to your subscriber.
Over and Out
Building a high-quality subscriber base can be tough work, so be sure to treat every communication as a privilege and not a right in order to continually engage and retain your subscribers. Leverage the power of email with testing, personalization, segmentation and dynamic content to refine your efforts. Above all, never forget about the promise you made when your subscriber signed-up; ask yourself if each recipient will find value in your email before hitting send.
*This is a simple test method that requires all other variables to remain consistent (i.e. content, day and time deployed, other communications with your organization, etc.)
For 10 years, Email Strategist Aubrey Stork has been making meaningful connections with customers, clients, prospects and donors through email. His strategic approach blends the experience of bringing both technical and creative solutions to many of the world’s most recognized brands. As a trusted partner, you can count on Aubrey to deliver strategic email solutions that effectively address your unique business challenges.
Is your audience disengaged? Is your share of wallet what it could be? Are you caught in a cycle of expensive customer acquisition due to high churn? Connect with Aubrey today to learn how your business challenges might be effectively and efficiently addresses with email.