By Nancy Drexler
E-mail is one of the fastest, easiest, least costly ways to maintain communication with our clients and prospects. Proper e-mail planning and monitoring lets us learn more about them and use this knowledge to prepare special offers and messages tailored to their needs. Other than picking up the phone or meeting face-to-face, e-mail is about as personal as we get these days - which can make rejection hard to handle.
So what do you do when prospects ask to "unsubscribe"? Hopefully, you unsubscribe them - immediately.
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM) requires you honor an unsubscribe request within 10 days.
When you receive removal requests, you have no choice but to honor them. Your e-mail relationship with that recipient is over.
But, as with most relationships, the future depends less on what you do than on how you do it. So here are some tips for keeping your e-mail relationships productive, even after you've been jilted.
Being jilted should not be viewed as the end of communication, but rather a request to communicate differently. Your customers are telling you they are unhappy about something and thus want to stop hearing from you. You can simply let them leave, or you can use this opportunity to begin to improve your brand image in their eyes.
First, this requires that you acknowledge your customers' dissatisfaction, apologize for it and take appropriate action. Treat it as the beginning of a new communication. Then you can start turning a negative brand experience into a positive one, and keep the door open for future communication and future business.
Nobody likes people who won't take no for an answer; you want to be someone who accepts rejection. That will help keep your brand image positive. So the first thing you want to do is confirm receipt of the unsubscribe request, and let the recipient know his or her wishes will be honored.
There is disagreement about how this confirmation should be handled. Some marketers find it bad form to send e-mail confirmations to people who just told you they don't want to receive your e-mails. Others believe it is fine to confirm with e-mails as long you acknowledge that it will be your last. In my opinion, the ideal situation is to link jilters immediately to a confirmation landing page.
A landing page will keep the unsubscribe process streamlined and straightforward while at the same time keep communications open.
Your landing page should assure those wishing to unsubscribe that you have received their request and intend to act on it. But it can also do far more - perhaps even save the relationship.
What if your customer doesn't really want to leave you? What if he or she clicked unsubscribe by mistake, has had a change of heart, wants only certain kinds of information, or wants information sent to a different e-mail address or even a snail mail address? Your landing page can be a preference page that keeps those doors open. While succinctly reminding customers of the benefits of receiving your e-mails, you might also ask if there is any way you can continue to deliver these benefits.
Give these readers the opportunity to select a different e-mail address or the option to choose other ways of communicating with you.
For instance, if they are reacting negatively to sales pitches, would they be interested in a newsletter? If they are tired of your newsletter, would they like to know when favorite products go on sale or new products are introduced?
Perhaps your jilters are far more annoyed with e-mails in general than they are with you. Would they prefer to receive mail or telephone calls? Make these alternatives simple for your prospects to select, and you may create marketing opportunities rather than lose them.
When your reputation is at stake, you want to be sure it isn't ruined by something beyond your control. Your reputation can be easily compromised if you don't take responsibility for all aspects of your communications, including the technical side.
Do your marketing e-mails appear to come from you, or have you created special "From" names tailored to your messages? Do you use a dedicated Internet protocol address with a valid reverse domain name setup pointer (rDNS PTR) record? Can this address both send and receive e-mail?
Is your e-mail secure, with no open relay or open proxy? If you can't answer these questions positively and accurately, it's time to pay a visit to your information technology department or talk to your service provider.
Jilters have valid reasons for asking you to remove them from your e-mail lists. Sometimes it's simply because the recipient is not a good prospect for your products or services. These people do you a favor when they let you know to stop wasting time and money on them.
Other times, your recipients may feel they are receiving too many e-mails from you or your content is not interesting, relevant or helpful.
Your jilters are also telling you it is time to revisit your e-mail program. Are you communicating too often? Are you monitoring your deliveries, bounces and click-throughs, and adjusting when necessary?
Is your content not as relevant or productive as it could be? If any of these are true, your e-mail recipients will let you know. Listen to them; the customer is always right.
Lastly, keep all your prospect and customer information on file, and don't stop communicating with those who have spurned you entirely.
Whether you refer jilters back to their sales reps or put them on a list for future targeting, your relationships are invaluable: Past customers can build a brand - or destroy it.
Send birthday cards. Send letters or direct mail announcing new products, price cuts or special promotions. Let them know they're valued and missed.
If you can do all this while still respecting the recipients' right to privacy, you may soon find yourself sending an e-mail that begins, "Welcome back."
Nancy Drexler is the Vice President, Marketing for SignaPay Ltd., an ISO headquartered in Dallas. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The e-mail and Internet service provider Return Path Inc. (www.returnpath.net.) contributed information to this article.
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