Courting Subscribers: A Love Story

It takes a lot to catch my attention as a subscriber (when I don’t have my marketing hat on) and compel me to open a promotional email. I recently asked myself, what does it take to get a user experiencing inbox-fatigue to read an email? I realized that the process of engaging with a new subscriber is not unlike a suitor courting a new love interest. I know, who says courting or suitor anymore, right? But the point stands – relationships are complicated, whether romantically- or marketing-based, and should be cultivated thoughtfully.

Engage and be engaging

Getting the right message to the right person at the right time is the big trick. You’ve got to stand out from the crowd, so what makes you special? Consider your first encounter with a potential new subscriber to be your first date – they see an ad or stumble across your website, and they want to know more. How do you get to know them? Email, of course! When it comes to email collection, it may require some testing, but it is important to find the balance between collecting enough data to target your audience appropriately and not so much that it becomes creepy. For example, if you’re a dating website then asking for a subscriber’s age may make sense. If you’re a retailer, this type of data may be less appropriate to request. Suitors and senders alike should be interested in knowing more, but not so interested that it feels invasive.

Enfamil does an excellent job of engaging new subscribers and clearly outlines what to expect as well as the benefits of joining the program.

Their subscription form requests relevant information that would allow the sender to target their messaging, but does not require these details to be provided if the subscriber prefers not to share them.

Set the stage

So, your “first date” has gone well – they see something they like and want to know more. What happens next? If your first date is your first encounter with a new subscriber, then you could liken your welcome email to that first call or text. When your time is up, you part ways hoping for another encounter. Let them know you’re interested – sooner than later! I think most of us have played the waiting game, eagerly checking our phones, so playing hard-to-get is probably not the best approach in this situation. Tell your subscriber when you’ll be in touch again and you are more likely to strengthen the relationship since they will be looking for your message. Return Path's "The Email Subscriber Experience 2008-2013" study found that welcome messages that included an offer had higher inbox placement rates, higher read rates, and lower subscriber complaints (download the full study here). 

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts onboards new subscribers through a series of welcome emails that include easily skimmable content highlighting the benefits of the program, several calls to action, and a survey to encourage brand interaction and recognition. Wyndham also tells the subscriber to expect two more emails in the welcome series, which keeps the sender top of mind.

In all relationships, setting expectations is key to long-term success. Let your subscriber know what messages they can expect to receive and when. It’s important to keep those lines of communication open so they feel comfortable letting you know if they want to engage more or less frequently. For examples, Sephora offers a simple, easy form to update email type and frequency through their preference center.

 

Keep ‘em coming back for more

Send flowers – or at least some messages that keep it interesting and relevant. Encourage connecting in new ways, maybe through social media or send a message just to hi. Make it personal and use that information you so carefully collected earlier to target your audience, but choose wisely. Return Path's Subscriber Experience Study found that messages that contained personalization delivered to the spam folder more, read less, and complained about more by subscribers. Keeping the spark alive isn’t always easy, but is critical to maintaining long-term relationships, including those between marketers and subscribers.

To engage subscribers  and keep them interested, Zappos employs effective use of personalization by suggesting complimentary pieces for recent purchases. The example below was sent within one day purchases and includes relevant suggestions for future shopping.

Want to know more? Read what happens after the welcome.