Give Your Email Subscribers Options

Email list management is a boring topic, I know. But if your organization is using email to communicate with customers or prospective customers, it is one you have to perfect.

In the old days of email marketing, subscription was a binary choice. You were either subscribed, or you were not. If you subscribed and then changed your mind, you unsubscribed.

Simple? Simple.

That’s not the case with many organizations today. And if you are still doing it the old way, this is your wakeup call. When you give your subscribers options, you give them a better subscriber experience.

Let’s say you are a clothing retailer with a lifestyle newsletter that you put out once a week. In addition, you have frequent sales and specials, new lines being released every season, and a pop-up shop tracker.

In the old, binary world, if one of your past customers decided she did not want to receive the newsletter anymore because she did not care for the writing, she unsubscribed. But that meant that you could no longer send her emails about sales and new lines.

But a smart organization like yours couldn’t abide that. Instead, you create separate lists. You have a newsletter list, a sales list, a new lines list, and a pop-up shop list. Now each user can customize what types of emails they get from your brand.

Take it one step further.

Maybe some customers like the newsletter, but find that weekly is too frequent. Or they like the sales, but only on specific items. Why not segment your lists even further and let users set the frequency of the newsletter and choose the product categories they want to get alerts for?

I know what you’re thinking – all this is doing is making email harder to manage. But the truth is, you can set these up once and you’re done. Email software and technology being what it is, most companies can put this kind of program on autopilot.

The more you let your subscribers customize their experience, the better their experience becomes.

Ethical Questions for Marketers – Part 10

Welcome to the newest installment of our weekly blog series, Ethical Questions for Marketers. Each week we plan to introduce a new topic and explore it in detail, preparing marketers for the day when they face such a problem at their organization.

Last week’s topic was Paying Influencers.

This week’s topic: Spam

When I talk to email marketers today, many of them think that spam is a thing of the past. I say good for them. But the reality is that there are still far too many organizations engaged in this years’ old practice. We just have to define it better.

Usually they’re thinking that spam is when you try to deceive or trick someone with email. They think of phishing attacks and Nigerian princes sending you offers with bad links in an attempt to steal your identity or your life savings.

This isn’t spam so much as a scam. And modern email providers like Gmail and Yahoo have gotten so good at filtering that stuff out that it’s hardly a problem anymore.

Today’s spam looks like a perfectly good email. It comes from a legitimate company with a legitimate offer. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that the subscriber never asked for it. They never signed up and they never gave you permission. It’s the email equivalent of a telemarketer’s cold call or a flyer you never asked for in your mailbox. Except that its more prolific than either of those forms of outreach because of the relative cost.

Email is nearly free. But that doesn’t make it okay. Spam can hurt your brand, and get you in trouble. For every 100 people you send an email to unannounced, you might get 1 additional sale. But you will anger 20-30 people to do it. (I’m making up numbers of course, but the reality is not far off)

What your company needs to decide is how far you are willing to go to find new customers. How far are you willing to bend the rules? How many people do you risk turning off of your brand forever?

Stay tuned next week for another installment of our Ethical Questions for Marketers series. If you have an ethical topic you’d like to see addressed, write us.

Zach Heller Marketing Week in Review

Today, a recommendation. I’ve long been an avid reader of Occam’s Razor, the blog by Avinash Kausnik, Analytics Ninja, Author, and Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google. There is no better resource for quality, in-depth digital marketing tips can case studies. Posts are well thought-out and provide an incredible amount of detail and actionable insights. I cannot recommend it enough.

Here are last week’s posts, in case you missed them:

  1. Ethical Questions for Marketers – Part 9
  2. Bad Sales Incentive Practices
  3. Marketer Resource Alert: CoolaData

Happy Saturday!

Two Ways to Boost Your Marketing Knowledge:

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  2. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter to get a curated list of the top marketing articles from around the web

Marketer Resource Alert: CoolaData

The team at CoolaData took on a project to make the available content about web analytics and BI for digital marketing more accessible. They built the Web Analytics & BI Wiki – the first knowledge hub that collects all the relevant information on the subject and organizes it in a meaningful structure.

The wiki started with an intensive research project – the first stage was building a tree of over 200 sub-topics around web analytics and BI, including web analytics concepts and metrics, specialized analytics such as mobile or SEO analytics, BI for digital marketing, and web analytics & BI technologies.

The CoolaData team collected over 100,000 web pages that cover these subjects, hand-picked the most relevant ones for each category, and divided them into “content types” such as How To, Case Studies, Real Life Examples, Vendor Information, Product Comparisons, and so on.

The wiki is still is growing with over 100 content pages, and new category pages are added regularly. I'm quite sure this new community resource can save a lot of time and help many mobile and digital agencies become much more familiar with web/mobile analytics, BI, and big data.

Bad Sales Incentive Practices

Finding the right sales incentives is critical to building a more effective sales organization. But regardless of the incentive system you have in place, there are things management can do to injure its effectiveness.

Let’s review three of the worst sales incentive policies I’ve seen. They are:

  1. Capping incentives
  2. Treating all salespeople the same
  3. Not measuring and adjusting over time

Capping Incentives

The idea behind capping incentives is short-sighted, and goes something like this. “What if Salesperson X gets all these sales, that will mean we have to pay him all this cash. Let’s put a maximum on the amount we have to pay so we can save on the cost of this program.”

It doesn’t take much time to recognize the flaw inherent in this solution to a problem we should all be so lucky to have. If Salesperson X gets all those sales, those sales equal revenue for the company. So long as the incentive structure is built in such a way that the company profits from the sales after the incentive, there’s no reason to cap it. All capping it does is tells Salesperson X and the rest of your sales team not to work so hard.

Treating All Salespeople the Same

No two employees are the same. And we should not expect them to respond to incentives in the same way. Nowhere is that more true than in sales.

Your high performers might need different incentives than your more average salespeople. New hires might require more support and therefore a different set of expectations than more experienced staffers. People selling different products or to different client types might see starkly different performance.

Your incentive structure should be flexible enough to allow for these kinds of differences. The key is clarity and fairness, not rigidity.

Not Measuring and Adjusting Over Time

Putting an effective incentive plan in place for your sales organization is a time to “Set It and Forget It”. Just like most other marketing practices, it is important to continually optimize the incentive structure over time. Test until you find the one that leads to the maximum benefit for the company and then monitor it for staleness or slippage over time. You may need to inject a little excitement every once in a while if you have a sales team that gets used to the status quo.