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Expectations

One of the themes I harp on with clients is setting recipient expectations. Senders that give recipients the information they need to make an informed subscription decision have much higher inbox and response rates than senders that try to mislead their recipients.
Despite the evidence that correctly setting expectations results in better delivery and higher ROI on lists some senders go out of their way to hide terms from recipients. I’ve heard many of those types of comments over the years.

If we tell recipients how often we’re going to mail them, we don’t think they’ll opt-in.

If you mail people, even those who have opted in, more than they want to be mailed, then they’re going to complain or ignore your mail. And that results in poor delivery. If you’re mailing so much even you think it’s going to drive subscribers away then maybe you need to re-think your email program.

They opted in at one point, and even though they opted out, we thought that they’d be interested in these other things we’d like to sell them.

No, the recipient opted out. An opt-out should be persistent. You cannot arbitrarily decide to opt your unsubscribes back into a new list. That’s going to cause you problems, either with your ESP or your subscribers or both.

We don’t care if the addresses don’t belong to the people who submit them, we’ll just mail those addresses anyway.

If you mail addresses that belong to people who never opted in to your mail, then you’re spamming. There are certain lists that are targets for this kind of abuse, usually partisan or highly political lists. That just means that the senders need to be even more careful about their subscription policies and setting expectations. Failure to do so results in delivery problems at major ISPs.
Setting expectations and listening to recipients is a vital part of successful delivery. Your recipients are your best allies in getting mail delivered to the inbox. Trying to deceive them or second guess their desires leads to diminished returns. Not only are you spending more money and time in strategy, but the more complex the system the less likely it is to be right.
Be clear. Be honest. Be recipient friendly.
 

4 comments

  1. Huey says

    That’s a fine post, but if you were slightly less polite, you could probably sum all of that up in four words: “Don’t be an idiot”.
    Every single one of those quote blocks in your post could be responded to with “Really? I have a better idea: DON’T BE AN IDIOT. Why would you purposefully annoy your prospective customers? Conventional wisdom in marketing that all name recognition and all publicity is good is just plain wrong! Do you really want to be remembered as the Exxon Valdez or the tampered Tylenol? THEN STOP SCREWING UP AND CALLING IT A POSITIVE!”

  2. Christine says

    I don’t think I have ever signed up for a mailing list where they said “We usually email our customers weekly, but if you would like to be mailed more or less frequently, select your choice below and subscribe. You can update this easily at any time by clicking the ‘modify preferences’ link at the bottom of every email.”
    Never.

  3. laura says

    I haven’t gotten that when I signed up. But I did get options to change the frequency when I tried to unsubscribe.
    http://blog.wordtothewise.com/2009/08/subscription-practices-in-the-wild/
    I thought I blogged about Sur La Table and their over aggressive holiday mailings and the option to downgrade, too. But I can’t find it.

  4. John L says

    It says a whole lot about the marketer mind set that they assume they have to lie to the same people with whom they claim they wish to engage.
    Is it any wonder that we assume that all e-mail marketers are crooks until conclusively proven otherwise?

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