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4 Ways You Can Build Stronger Email Relationships With Your Customers
By Jeannie Schuett


Aside from the emails you receive from coworkers, family and friends, there are two distinct categories of mail in your inbox - spam and relationship-based email. Let's focus on that relationship-based half. Imagine if you had to go back and give permission again to every single company that you gave the right to send you email. Look at the newsletters you read (or that maybe you read half the time, but still want) and the company updates or promotions from your favorite stores. What would you sign up for again? (Hopefully our newsletter is among that list.) Why would you sign up for them again?

I had to answer that question recently when I changed my personal email address, in hopes of filtering out the spam (it worked!) while still being able to retain my relationships with websites and businesses that were of value to me. The process was so interesting to me that I thought I'd share my findings with you. I had listed all the companies that I had given permission to communicate with me and decided which ones I wanted to forward to my new address. It was quite a list that I compiled - about 30 companies who sent me emails, from book alerts sent by Amazon.com to the New York Times to online bill reminders. Then I had to determine which ones I still wanted to receive. What I realized is that while some companies manage their "relationship" with me quite well, others are frankly horrible at it. From sending unrelated information I didn't ask for to making it difficult to unsubscribe when they do, companies made a lot of mistakes that did nothing to strengthen my relationship with them. And obviously, I didn't re-subscribe with those. But the ones I did re-subscribe with for had a lot in common with each other, and it all boiled down to how they treated their relationship with me. Here are the areas they succeeded in:

They established trust between us.

These businesses did a great job of proving to me that they were trustworthy. They didn't just tell me, they proved it and here are a few ways they did that:


They had a subscription option that worked for me, not just them. I'm a firm believer in not tricking your customers, and in my personal opinion, opt-out subscriptions are exactly that. A checkbox that is pre-checked "for me" always makes me wonder who they are really making it easier for, and it always ends up being them, not me. I don't mind checking a box if I'm interested, and I certainly don't mind responding to an email to confirm my subscription. Giving me the power to decide shows a respect for my preferences.

They respected my privacy. Not only did they state their privacy policies clearly and visibly on their website, some even repeated it in their emails (or offered a link.) I knew exactly how they would use my name and information, if they would rent my name to third parties or send me emails from partners. I knew exactly what they promised, and they lived up to it.

They managed my expectations and met them.

If I subscribe to an email that tells me I will receive it once a week, I expect to hear from that company once a week - no more and no less. These companies set reasonable expectations and met them consistently:

I knew how much and I knew when. Whether I had stated my own preferences or whether they had explicitly told me what to expect, I knew what I would get from them. They never wavered from the expectation of delivery they had set out in the beginning. If things did change, I was sent an email informing me of the change and offering me options based on that.

They lived up to their promises. One of the communications I signed up for (and re-subscribed for) was from Amazon. I asked for email alerts when books became available from my favorite authors. Amazon lived up to their promise - every time an author's book was added, I got an email. But I did not get anything else. I knew what I had been promised and it was wonderful to see that Amazon did also.
They sent me information that was valuable to me.

I usually sign up for something because it interests me or has value to me (don't we all?). I'll stay a subscriber because it retains value and interest. These companies did a great job of retaining value, and here are a few of their methods:

They asked me. I know what I like and will not hesitate to ask for relevant information if I'm prompted, and these companies wanted that information from me. Some offered surveys; some presented me with a preferences page where I could check my own options on everything from HTML versus text to feedback on content. I knew that I had a say in what I was receiving and that made it even more important to me.

Some of the emails came highly targeted to my interests. If you have a website, you have the ability to completely tailor your customer's email experience just to them. Companies that send me completely dynamic emails, based on my interests and my actions (such as where I've been on their site) are tops in my book. I love their emails because I know that they are targeted directly at me (and I know how they do it, too). This requires my input but when they use those preferences to give me valuable content, I definitely don't mind.
They gave me the tools to manage our relationship.

Who ever said a relationship was easy? There are a lot of particulars that could make a business relationship extremely difficult to manage, but the companies that kept my attention all offered me the same things - the tools I needed to manage our relationship:

My own Profile page. With some companies, I had my very own profile where I could make all sorts of decisions about our relationship - how much email I got, where it was sent to, or what format it came in. In addition, many of the profile pages (such as Jupitermedia) gave me the ability to choose what content I wanted and change it as often as I felt like it. I was in control. As a customer, I love the profile page because it puts me back in the driver's seat. And I love the profile page as a marketer, because it gives me clear and easy instructions on how to best manage my relationship with my customers.

I could unsubscribe at any point, easily and without hassle. I can't speak enough about this point. There are some newsletters I receive that I may not read all the time, but once in a while I do. You'd think I would unsubscribe from them, but I don't - in part because when I have time, I do read them. But also in part because it's just so darned easy to unsubscribe that I know I can do it at any time if I want to. The newsletters I choose to keep in my inbox offer me that option - the ability to remove myself from their list without any hassle. It's often more a fail safe than a necessity, but I want to know it's there.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that you are in the business of building relationships with your customers. All of these companies I have continued relationships with have done an incredible job of keeping that relationship strong, by employing some very straight-forward, simple ideas. Any relationship takes a little TLC. Knowing what your customers want and expect is half the battle. Meeting their expectations is the other half. When you can say you have both halves covered, you're probably well on your way to a long and happy relationship.

 

 

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