Most online businesses set up email lists of some sort, then proceed to just send out emails. This document will show you, from the perspective of the person RECEIVING the emails, what mistakes many people make. Avoid these mistakes to ramp up your email list to profitability.
Why is that bad? When a subscriber wants to change their email address, what do they do? If you expect someone to unsubscribe one email address, then go back to your site and resubscribe with another, that’s expecting a lot. The best thing to do is have “Manage your subscription” link that takes them to a page that they can unsubscribe, change their email address, and even change which lists they subscribe to. Then, have an “Quick Unsubscribe” link next to that.
Another thought here – I have signed up as a member of forums, and then gotten emails. When I wanted to change the email address or unsubscribe, I clicked on “Change subscription info” and it asked me to sign in to the forum first. If I don’t remember the forum login info I used when I created my account, I simply CAN’T get in to change my email address or unsubscribe. So, of course, I just report the emails as spam. I’ve had this happen at least four times that I can think of.
2. Making too much information required upon sign up.
You only need their email address. You might want their first name, so you can personalize their email, but even this should be optional. Don’t require postal address, last name, and especially phone number. Requiring a phone number will cut your signups by at least 80%. And don’t require fields that are silly, like Title (Mr., Mrs., Ms.) or birthday. Why make it hard? Take as an example The Venetian, a casino in Las Vegas. Here’s their signup form: https://secure.venetian.com/APPS/EmailSignUp/. It requires birthdate, but they have to for age verification. But it requires Title! I clicked submit without my Title, and it gave me an error message. So the first thing I get in my email relationship with The Venetian is a beep and popup error message. That’s not a good start.
3. Making unsubscribing difficult.
Let’s look again at The Venetian. In their emails there is an unsubscribe link. It goes here: http://venetian.com/APPS/Unsubscribe/. In order to unsubscribe, I have to enter my email address. If I have multiple email addresses (I have 12), I have to remember which one I used and enter it. So what do I do instead? I hit the Spam button in my email program to make them go to my Spam folder to be deleted. Simple for me, but it also sends a notice to my Spam filter company that The Venetian’s emails are spam. Too many of those, and you get banned, especially from AOL, where it’s almost impossible to get removed from a spam list. Instead, make it easy to unsubscribe. Do you really want someone on your list who doesn’t want to be? I suggest putting an unsubscribe (or at least Manage Subscription) link at the TOP of every email. It is MUCH better to lose a few subscribers easily, than to get Spam-reported.
4. NOT unsubscribing when someone requests unsubscribing.
ProFlowers… If you ever sign up for their emails, expect to be on their list for life. I have unsubscribed at least five times from their lists, and they still keep sending. So I keep reporting them as spammers. Unfortunately, they’re so big, and not enough people are reporting them, apparently, that I still keep getting them in my inbox. I absolutely hate ProFlowers now, and will NEVER do business with them again.
5. Sending to people who may not know how they got subscribed.
Do you auto-subscribe all customers? Do you have a “free report” that you send people, but don’t mention in the signup form that they’ll be subscribed to an email newsletter? If you send ongoing emails to these people, you may be a spammer.
You don’t want people to get emails who don’t WANT to get emails, do you? So, for customers, in checkout, just say, “as a new customer you will be subscribed to our newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.” Or, better yet, have a check box in checkout for “Subscribe.” Finally, you can have a subscribe form on the Invoice/Receipt page so AFTER they have happily sent you money, they can subscribe.
If you send to customers without a specific subscription notice/form, I suggest sending them an email invitation to subscribe. You’re allowed to do that without it being spam, since they’ve done business with you. Take the last email newsletter you sent, and, ABOVE it, put a paragraph that says, “As a new customer with XXX, we’d like to invite you to subscribe to our newsletter and receive Special Sale Notices, Coupons, new product info, and more! We promise not to overwhelm you with emails, and you can unsubscribe at any time.” Have a link to subscribe. Send it only once.
6. Too many emails.
I once signed up for TigerDirect emails. It must have been during an experiment, because I got at least one email a day, and sometimes two, for about a week. I finally unsubscribed. It was over a year until I resubscribed, and now they’re only about once a week. So, while experimenting with what would happen with overwhelming emails, they lost me for a year. Remember, people get between 20 and 200 emails a day. We’re ALL overwhelmed. Why would you want to become a negative contribution to that feeling of being overwhelmed??
If you have “daily updates,” or “new product notices” that might be daily, have multiple levels of subscriptions. Let people decide how frequent they’ll get emails. Some people want to know everything right away, especially online shopping addicts. But most don’t. Have multiple email lists, “daily, weekly summary, monthly” and let them choose. And NEVER violate the frequency. If I pick monthly, and I get them weekly, I’m gonna spam-report it.
7. Too few emails.
Hey, doesn’t that sound like the opposite of (6)?? Yep. If I sign up for email newsletters in January, and I don’t get anything until May, I probably have forgotten I signed up. At that point, I think it’s spam, and, you got it – you’re being reported as a spammer.Remember, emails don’t have to be huge. At a minimum, send a text email at least once a month keeping in touch, with something basic like a special offer, new product notice, or even a “Happy Mother’s Day” mention. Check out Hallmark – there’s a holiday about every day now, so there’s always SOME excuse for an email. If you drop the ball for more than 3 or 4 months, you should probably send another invite to resubscribe. In the very least, at the TOP of your email, in bold, say, “You Subscribed to this List because you wanted xxxxx” to remind them that they did, indeed, subscribe. Keep in mind that, while YOU are obsessed with your business, most people forget you even exist most of the time.
8. No deals or coupons.
I sign up for emails from local restaurants a lot. Sometimes, I’ll get emails that tell me about new menu items, or encourage me to celebrate a holiday at their restaurant, but NO offer! There’s no call to action! Why do I care about Don Pablo’s having Cinco de Mayo if it doesn’t mean I get 10% off or a free Margarita? After two or three of these email ads, usually all pretty and graphical, I unsubscribe. Why would I want someone to just send me ads? If I liked ads, I wouldn’t fast forward through them with Tivo.
9. Too many deals and coupons.
I did it again – contradicting my previous point, right? This one really isn’t too bad unless you create expectations of discounts. I’ll tell you a quick story. A company I worked for started doing email newsletters. In each newsletter was a 10% off coupon that was good for one week. Since it was every time, what do you think happened? Sales disappeared for the three weeks that there was no coupon code. Then, the email would go out and we’d get pummeled with sales at a discount. Customers expected the same 10% discount off everything, and waited to get the code to order. After a bunch of these, there was no turning back – people expected their 10% off coupon code. So, the only solution was to extend the expiration period to the full month, and then accept that our income was reduced by 10%.
How do you balance (8) and (9)? By offering discounts and deals off specific items or services, changing it each time. Focus on your newest items, or even some of your lesser sellers. Have a clearance every now and then. Change it up, so people don’t expect anything in particular in each email, but still they have a reason to stay subscribed.
10. No confirmation emails.
When I subscribe to a list, I’m never 100% sure it worked. Too many online scripts are broken. So let people know they succeeded with an email saying so. Tell them on the Success page that they will be receiving an email confirmation. This way, if they don’t get one, you might already be in their spam filter and they can white-list you. Tell them how to white-list you.
Some people say you should “double opt in.” This means that your system would send a confirmation email with a special link. If the subscriber does NOT click that link, the subscription has not completed. Some systems will send a second attempt in 24 hours. This is certainly the safest way to avoid spam-reports. However, expect about half the people to not click the link for some reason. If someone doesn’t get the confirmation email because of a spam filter, they will simply assume that you just aren’t sending any emails. It’s up to you whether you want to do this, but it’s not necessary in my opinion.
Clean up these mistakes and you’ll increase subscriptions, decrease unsubscribes, and overall have a more positive email relationship with your customers. One final point of advice… I suggest using a service, such as MailChimp, instead of sending emails from your own server. Not only are the emails easier to manage, more professional looking, and bounces are taken care of, but you’ll also be better off if people click the Spam button on their email programs. If you’re using your own server, it might get banned easily. But MailChimp is able to handle the big spam-protection-companies much better. Give them a try with their free trial, I believe you’ll find it’s worth the price.
This article was guest-written by Chuck Lasker of MerchantTutorials.com.