Give Your Subscribers Options Sooner Rather Than Later

Posted by Anita Absey 

Our friends over at Silverpop have a new study out on how top internet retailers use email marketing. We were most intrigued by this stat:

“And the most surprising finding: one out of five companies that didn’t offer recipients any choices when they opted in to receive emails did give recipients choices when they tried to opt out. As a last ditch effort to keep subscribers on board, these companies offered to send less often or send different types of content.”

This strikes us a very risky strategy, for three reasons:

1. As Bill Nussey at Silverpop points out, this tactic can hurt deliverability if your recipients use the “this is spam” button rather than the unsubscribe button to stop getting content that isn’t interesting to them.

2. If they don’t complain (see #1) they might just ignore you. Return Path finds, again and again, that most clients have email files with high percentages of inactive subscribers. They don’t find value and so they tune you out.

3. To our mind, the biggest risk of all is the risk of not sending high-value email – and thus driving more response – right from the beginning. In the interest of giving yourself lots of flexibility you get your subscriber onto a general list. They get the email and they don’t complain (risk #1) and they don’t totally ignore you (risk #2), but they don’t ever respond either. Or, they respond less than they would if they were getting exactly what they wanted.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of creating options for your subscribers, even just for frequency, show those options right up front. If that feels too risky then at least make those alternate choices available to subscribers who have gone inactive or who haven’t responded by sending a special email campaign. Waiting until the subscriber is fed up with you – which is how most people feel when they take the trouble to unsubscribe – is just silly.

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About Anita Absey

Anita Absey, General Manager of Consumer Insight, joined Return Path in 2003 with extensive experience helping marketers create profitable and engaging email programs. Anita has held several executive positions at Return Path, leading both the Global Sales and Global Services teams during her tenure. She now leads the Consumer Insight business where she focuses on using the power of consumer preferences and buying data to help marketers and brands make informed decisions about engaging with customers. A veteran of the database and digital marketing industry and a self-proclaimed “data junkie,” she helps some of the world’s smartest marketers successfully integrate data and technology into their customer acquisition and customer relationship management programs. She is an active member of the Direct Marketing Association, having served as the Chair of the Ethics Operating Committee and as co-Chair of the Email Experience Council. Prior to Return Path Anita spent much of her career at Acxiom and Abacus Direct (acquired by Doubleclick). She holds a BA in Economics from Fordham University.

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