The Art of Dating Your Readers

by | Aug 24, 2017 | Email Marketing

How to stay out of the spam folderIn the world of email marketing you sometimes need to scream to be heard. Screaming excites people, and upsets others. It causes an emotional response that can spike sales from one segment of your prospects… while simultaneously spiking a rash of complaints and hate mail from another segment of your readers. The best copy, the best editorial, the best marketing, is all polarizing… and that, dear reader, will never change.

The knock-on effect to anything polarizing, however, is a potential change in the relationship with your reader. We are in the business of relationships… sales are simply a byproduct of the relationships we’ve developed with our readers and customers.

Many years ago, in a presentation I was giving in Bonn, Germany, I equated the act of acquiring an email subscriber to the act of asking a girl out on a date. Acquiring the email was analogous to getting the girl’s phone number. The confirmation email after I acquired the email was effectively the ‘first date’.

My actual first date was many, many years ago… but this is likely what I was thinking about:

  1. I think Im sweating…
  2. I hope I come off as cool as I did when I got her phone number and not the schlub that I really am…
  3. Definitely sweating… run away, run away…
  4. I hope I can get a second date…
  5. Sweat pits! Dear god, not sweat pits… and she is about to hug me!

All of these reactions had to do with first impressions. In a similar way, the confirmation email has everything to do with first impressions:

  1. Is it clear who will be sending me email? Friendly from name
  2. Is it clear what I will be receiving? Daily issue, advertisements, promised lead magnet
  3. Is it clear why I will be receiving the emails? Core themes discussed in the content
  4. Is it clear how I signed up and how I can be removed? Remind subscribers how they signed up and explain how they can unsubscribe
  5. Is it clear when I will be receiving the email? Frequency… daily / weekly / etc…

I’ve seen thousands of good confirmation emails of various lengths and themes… and all focus on the first impressions and setting ongoing expectations. It’s only by doing this that we can get to the second date. And it’s the second and subsequent dates that keep us in the inbox and out of the spam folder.

SPAM, by its very definition, is nebulous. It has everything to do with perception and very little to do with concrete and objective fact. 

spam definitionno one like spam

“Irrelevant or inappropriate messages”…. Hmmm, ok. What is irrelevant, what is inappropriate? If you look at the CAN-SPAM act, you would think a better framework would exist to define the concept of SPAM… but really all it does is tell me what I must do to stop spamming if I am indeed actually spamming. Even spam filters and software rely on user actions and feedback to determine what is spam. In determining what is SPAM and what isn’t, it is never taken into account, did the person actually signup for an e-letter! 

One of the largest factors for inbox placement at the three big web based email providers (Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo) is engagement. That is, how likely is it that your readers will open and read your email newsletters. A list of 100,000 with 40,000 opening and reading will have a much better chance of hitting the inbox than a list of 100,000 with 8,000 opening and reading. Make sense?

Email marketing is still the bread and butter of information marketers. I can safely say that it accounts for 75 – 85% of the revenue for a mature business. It’s how we can, most effectively, nurture a relationship with a front-end subscriber and ultimately sell them a back-end service.

Let’s walk through a few best practices. This will help keep the passion your reader had at signup, alive and well… and keep you OUT of the spam folder and IN the inbox.

How to Stay Out of the Spam Folder

1. Expectations: What should your new reader expect out of their subscription? In short, that you are, and continue to be, what they signed up for in the first place. 

These expectations should be clearly outlined on the confirmation page and confirmation email immediately after signup:

* What is the friendly from name I should expect in my inbox?

* How often will I receive email?

* Will I get advertisements?

* How safe is my email address?

2. Transparency: There is no better way to engage and excite a reader than by letting him inside the velvet rope… show him the guts of the business, secret projects in the works and future plans. Not only does this make the reader feel that he is part of something larger than just an email newsletter subscription, but it creates a level of excitement that is a proven response booster for paid promotions. Consider it almost a perpetual hotlist!

3. Longevity: Gimmicks may get you to home base once…. but just once. Focus on the longevity of the relationship by never violating your readers trust. Numbers 1 & 2 go a long way to retaining that trust and subsequently, maximizing Lifetime Value. 

4. Engagement: 7 years ago I helped with a study looking at engagement across about 50 free lists amounting around 3.5 million leads. More than 60% of these leads were acquired through traditional lead magnet squeeze pages using Google Adwords, one of our most valuable sources. This study concluded that out of all these leads, 75% had not opened or clicked on a link in an email for 6 months! All these people wanted was the free report promised on the signup page. 

I hope you monitor these un-engaged readers and make an attempt to re-engage them. They are, at best, simply an incremental drain on your business overhead… at worst, they can be a poison that gets you blocked by major ISPs effectively killing your business. 

I recommend a bare minimum of a two part re-engagement series when any subscriber hits 6 months with no purchases, clicks or opens. I’m in the early stages of testing a new tool called Lytics, however, which I think will tighten up our re-engagement window to weeks, not months.

Agora Marketing Masters Pro Tip

There are four tools that I use to look at the engagement level of my readers… I recommend you do the same.

1.Segmentation by list activity through my email system: Virtually all mailing systems allow for list segmentation. Segment out your more active readers by looking at clicks, opens and purchases. These are engaged readers that want more of what you have to offer!

2. Return Path is a popular email analytics tool used by high volume emailers. This tool has many uses, but one that comes into play regarding engagement is looking at the behavior of actual gmail and yahoo users on your list. This is then benchmarked against ’Best in Class’ senders that have a 90% or higher inbox placement at Gmail and Yahoo. As I mentioned earlier in this issue, web based ISPs look at the overall engagement of a list to determine where to send future issues (inbox or spam). A low read rate will lead to a higher likelihood of your email newsletter landing in the spam folder.Email engagement rates. Trying to stay out of the spam folder

3. Litmus is another popular tool in the email analytics world. While it has many of the same features as Return Path, I find Litmus does a few things better than Return Path and vice versa. Im particularly fond of the Litmus Engagement report… where I can see per issue engagement broken down by device.

Litmus Email Analytics - Engagement Chart

4. Last but certainly not least, I mentioned earlier I am in the early stages of using a product called Lytics. Lytics is a Customer Data Platform that ingests data from disparate data sources (CRM, Website, email, marketing) and ties actions together to look at a prospect / customer profile in its entirety. Regarding engagement, Lytics can help me identify leads that might be at risk of getting cold so I can take action to re-engage them. Additionally, I can see leads that may have initiated the relationship by signing up for my email newsletter, but then moved their engagement to the website, or social media and not the email newsletter. 

In conclusion… keeping your readers engaged will absolutely lead to more email in the inbox which will lead to more sales. Stay true to what you sold your reader on the initial email acquisition landing page and monitor your engagement rate… your bottom line depends on it.

All the best,

Brian York

Managing Director, Agora Integrated Marketing

P.S. Visit the Agora Marketing Masters Facebook group and share your tips to keep your readers engaged.