Don’t ‘over send’ or ‘under think’

by Mark Lusky
Originally published in Label and Narrow Web, October 6 2017

Most of us know the drill. We donate once to a “worthy cause,” then are bombarded with pleas for additional contributions via emails, snail mail, text or a combination of the three. What started out as a satisfying gift often turns into disdain as the seemingly never-ending barrage of follow-ups clutters our lives.

If it’s that off-putting for a charitable non-profit, what makes anyone think that the same efforts won’t turn off their for-profit audience? When it comes to email and snail mail communications to customers and prospects alike, think strategic, streamlined and sensible – or be prepared to see “unsubscribes” go up and direct mail response go down, along with the opinion of your company.

Too often, the rationale with such tactics as emails through Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or another distribution service is to watch the “unsubscribe” rate. When it starts spiking, the company looks into why. By then, it’s too late. People already have tuned out and turned off. The trick is to keep them on board. According to entrepreneur.com, “If you keep bombarding your email list with emails, whether promotional or non-promotional, your subscriber list will begin to shrink at a rapid pace. In fact, 69% of users unsubscribe due to ‘too many emails’.”

Business2community.com points out that, “a conservative dose of effective email marketing can be a great thing. Too many emails, on the other hand, will give your list a severe headache…forget the bottle of aspirin, though. They’ll just unsubscribe.”

Here are tips for building positive mail-based marketing – including either or both email and direct mail. (Although the information below addresses email campaigns, direct mail needs to play by the same rules):

Get personal. Recipients who can tell you’ve done research and developed a message targeted to them will be more favorably impressed. Of course, this takes a lot of legwork and, in many cases, is impractical. However, to target a small list of highly coveted present or prospective customers, this can be well worth the effort.

Notes Fastcompany.com, “Tactics for optimizing sales emails are well and good, but they’re not as important as personalized research and sender/recipient fit…Important people may be busy, but the same principles for winning their trust and attention apply to the most to least busy person you’re emailing. Be personal, and do your homework.”

Ask what they want. Notes the entrepreneur.com report, “Let your customers choose how many emails they wish to receive. You can have this option when they sign up for newsletters, or you can get this information by starting a poll.” Of course, too many survey outreaches also can annoy recipients, so be judicious.

Be relevant and beneficial. Have something valid and valuable to say, and as much as possible, relate content to audience interests, needs and wants. Entrepreneur.com points out, “Around 32% of users unsubscribe due to ‘irrelevant or useless’ email. Do not make the mistake of sending emails just for the sake of it, unless you wish to have fewer subscribers. Adds business2community.com, “The #2 reason people unsubscribe is that they find the emails to be irrelevant…Would the person who cited frequency as their top reason have been so quick to unsubscribe if they found real value in the emails they received? The problem isn’t with sending too many emails. It’s with sending too many irrelevant emails.”

Besides being of interest, outreach campaigns should let the audience know what’s in it for them. Relevant content is beneficial in its own right, but sometimes tangible offers sweeten the pot.

Focus messaging and targeting. Entrepreneur.com says, “You should know the goal of your email. Are you trying to make people purchase a product, or are you trying to make them fill out a form? According to reports, your first email has the highest CTR (click-through rate), which means you have one chance to make it right.

Test it out. Before launching a major direct email campaign, Business2community.com recommends testing “each campaign out before you run it…set aside a small control group…Measure everything: click-through, conversion, and, of course, unsubscribe. If you find that people are engaging with your content and sticking with you, then you can be confident that your larger list can successfully bear an increase in frequency…To be sure, every segment will have its breaking point. You can only push people too far before they begin to tune you out. The beauty of control-group testing is that you can find that breaking point without risking the bulk of your hard-earned list.”

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Mark Lusky, President, Mark Lusky Communications (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience. READ BIO

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