Resources: A Resolution to Unsubscribe? Extending the value of your email program after the holidays

Written by Susan Tull, VP Marketing

This article was originally published by eM+C on February 6, 2012. You can read the article on eM+C’s website here.

Raise your hand if you’ve spent the first part of 2012 unsubscribing from email programs that you don’t remember joining or don’t want to receive now that you’re done with holiday shopping. Yes, my hand is raised too. Like cleaning out a closet or beginning a diet, there’s something about the start of a new year that compels many of us to reduce, reorganize and reconsider, even when it comes to our email inbox.

As consumers become more selective about the brands they want to hear from this year, here are some tips to ensure that your emails stay solidly positioned among the chosen few that make the cut.

I’m with the brand

In “Almost Famous,” a coming-of-age movie about a young music journalist’s experience on the road with the rock group Stillwater, the band’s groupies called themselves “band aids.” More than fans who bought tickets to a single show, the band aids followed Stillwater everywhere. So who are your brand aids? While many brands have them, few email marketers know who they are. Even fewer apply inspiration from their brand aids to their email program. For those brands that do, however, their position in the inbox is rock solid.

Make it good before you try to make it viral

Few things can turn off your email subscribers faster than a forced or inauthentic viral campaign. What’s good, shareworthy content? That answer will differ depending on your brand and subscribers, but some key characteristics shared by effective viral programs include humor (some brands can get away with more than others) and a tie to current events.

It’s interesting to note that in almost every case effective viral campaigns have a strong brand voice but aren’t primarily about the brand per se. Take the recent lovenotes campaign by lululemon athletica for example. Although some of the lovenotes are about yoga and a few reference the brand’s products and logo, I’ll argue that the viral success of this award-nominated campaign can be attributed to the fact that the notes build brand equity by first building bridges between people.

Deals done differently

If your goal is to build long-term engagement for your email program, you may be surprised to learn that discounts aren’t enough. When brands establish a precedent of offering regular email discounts, many subscribers simply set their email client to automatically route those emails to a folder. When the subscriber is ready to buy, they search the folder to find a coupon. An email program like this may be providing some subscriber value, but it’s not driving ongoing engagement. For subscribers who are cleaning out their inbox or who have resolved to spend less money in 2012, opting out is a strong possibility.

There are ways to offer discounts that can help you identify and respond to your brand aids at the same time. Bare Escentuals, the makeup retailer known for its large community of fans, launched a holiday daily-deal email campaign that created a sense of urgency with limited quantities and limited time. But when the brand’s West Coast Facebook fans mentioned they were losing out on deals due to the time zone difference, the company responded by moving the deal start times. Bare Escentuals evened the odds and delighted its fans.

If you love somebody, set them free

It can be tough to discover that subscribers no longer wish to participate in your email program. Do all you can to maintain the relationship and make it better for the subscriber, but also recognize that if the relationship isn’t salvageable, you’ve got to bow out gracefully. For instance, provide a preference center that lets subscribers manage their subscription parameters and frequency cadence. But when unsubscribing is the only viable option, honor it. Sometimes when you set the subscriber you love free they realize what they’re missing and come back to you.