The Law of Reciprocity (And Other Email Marketing Strategies)

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” “Do not do to others that which angers you.” “One should never do that to another which ones regards as injurious to one’s own self.” The “Golden Rule” rings true across countries, religions, the ages,….and email marketing.

So before you ask why I am quoting popular religious and philosophical text, just ponder for a moment. How are you interacting with and treating your subscribers and does it match how you interact with your personal email? I find with all of my clients there is a struggle to remove the “marketing brain” and replace it with the “subscriber brain.” By putting yourself in your subscribers’ shoes and thinking about how you would like to receive mail, you can change how you approach your marketing and in turn mitigate complaints and build a healthier, more successful relationship with your subscribers.

Frequency and engagement:
Think about the amount of marketing and promotional mail you receive in your personal inbox. How much of it do you look at, and how much of it do you ignore or delete without reading? Do you get annoyed when you constantly see a specific brand pop-up over and over again? Personally, I tend to delete a majority of marketing mail en masse. I am on so many lists that the sheer magnitude of messages I receive is overwhelming—and so many of these companies don’t seem to get the hint: I don’t want to hear from you every day!

Your subscribers are likely very busy people, juggling hectic work and personal schedules, and don’t have the time to read every single message either. Ponder your engagement with your personal mail and think about how often you enjoy hearing from brands–even the ones you love the most–and tailor your sending habits accordingly. By keeping this in mind and not overloading your subscribers, you can mitigate complaints as well as increase the good engagement (opens, clicks, forwards, replies) that mailbox providers are looking at so closely when making filtering decisions.

How many times do you disengage from a brand simply because they are sending you content you don’t care about or were not expecting to see? Do you find it annoying to get odd one-off campaigns on something completely irrelevant? If I sign up for a company’s marketing promotions, I can get a bit perturbed if they send me something completely off base. It’s important to tailor your marketing content to what you would hope and expect to see from your brand–and make it modern, interesting, and fun to read! Utilize dynamic content and send personalized emails. Everyone likes to see their own name and it creates a feeling of familiarity. The closer you are with your subscribers the less likely they are to complain and the more likely they will contribute to your bottom line.

Brand Recognition:
How often do you receive an email and think “umm…who are you?” Would you be weirded out if you received a marketing email from “DoNotReply” or “Jane Lawrence?”

I tend to err on the side of caution and won’t open it. Best case scenario I delete without reading (negative engagement), worst case scenario I complain (really negative engagement). Try to keep it brand specific and stay away from personal names. This will ensure your subscribers know who you are as well as decrease the chance they mark your email as spam.

Preference center and unsubscribe process:
Think about the last time you felt overwhelmed and bombarded by email or decided you just didn’t identify with a specific brand anymore. These things happen, regardless of how awesome your email program is–some people will want to opt out. So make it easy for them to do so. Impatience is a fairly common trait, and the longer it takes to figure out how to get off of a mailing list, the higher the likelihood of complaints. Utilize a list-unsubscribe (preferably mailto) as well as an unsubscribe link. Or, maybe your subscribers don’t want to unsubscribe altogether, they just want to change the type and frequency at which they are mailed. Make your preference center easy to access and adjust preferences, and then honor the choices your subscribers make. (It’s also important to remember both CAN-SPAM and CASL have very specific rules surrounding the timely processing of these requests)

Feedback Loops: You can’t please everyone, and that’s ok. You will get complaints–it’s unavoidable. The important thing is that you listen to those complaints. Think about how annoying it is when a brand just keeps emailing you, even after you have made it very clear you’re not interested. Don’t you just want them to get the hint? Apply that to your own email program. Sign up for any and all feedback loops and suppress subscribers that complain about your emails. You’re too good for your haters anyway.

To quote another timeless cliché, always remember “quality over quantity.” Don’t be afraid to have a smaller list filled with subscribers who love to hear from you and aren’t bringing down your reputation with mailbox providers. Think about your own interactions with email and try to create an experience you would enjoy. Identifying the root cause of why your subscribers are complaining will help unlock the potential to extend the life-cycle of your customers. As they say, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes….”

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