Let's Pause to Celebrate! (And Re-Commit to Relevance)

About half (48%) of email subscribers make purchases or purchase decisions based on email messages, according to the recently released Jupiter Research survey of US Consumers (survey taken September 2006). Hooray! Email works! That’s great news for all of us, and correlates with Return Path and client data I’ve seen: email subscribers are typically more active and valuable customers.

Sending email is not the same as engaging with subscribers, however. In the Jupiter Research, 45% of respondents said they were most interested in messages that are “personalized and targeted.” Be honest – how many of the messages you sent this week were truly personalized and targeted? I was talking with a client this morning who voiced the familiar lament, “Why would someone who opted in to my program complain about my email to the ISP?” Well, the reason is that most of your subscribers may have thought your program sounded good at the time (or perhaps didn’t know they were signing up if you use an opt-out or pre-checked box during checkout/sign up) but didn’t find something of interest in your actual messages. Even a new permission grant, while technically valid, doesn’t account for changes in the subscriber’s life, product usage or even age. Or subscriber fickleness.

Our research shows that overflowing inboxes have left half of subscribers more wary while the other half feel just as interested as ever in signing up for new email. However, the rose quickly fades in this channel – if your email is not compelling or interesting (what Jupiter calls “personalized and targeted”) then subscribers unsubscribe with their delete button. Anything that isn’t interesting is just more junk or spam to most subscribers.

When email works for your subscribers, they become your best customers. No broadcast program will ever appeal to most of your subscribers – you’ll be lucky to have a core group of active, engaged subscribers. Understand what portion of your file is not responding to anything – and either win them back or take them off your file. Profile your list by clickers or best buyers and tailor messages to key segments that speak to their particular interests. Create content and test your contact strategy to ensure that most subscribers are getting what they need. Take care of your best customers — your email subscribers.

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