There is a wonderful quote from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos that says “we see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little better.”
This is an age old tradition in marketing of course. There are studies that show that new customer acquisition is somewhere between 5 to 25 times more expensive than keeping an existing one. Once we get a customer, it’s really important to keep them.
The same thing is true in content marketing and the subscribers to your marketing automation campaigns, or newsletter content as well. You can think of this audience as your pre-customer database. Keeping them subscribed is an incredibly important of your strategy, and really less expensive in the long run. Think about it this way: if someone has given over their data to get one of your valuable content assets, you really don’t to spoil that relationship to the point where they unsubscribe. Because every unsubscribe is a loss of a potential customer.
So – if you are managing your email, or marketing automation platform what are some of the better approaches to making sure you are keeping your existing subscribers happy. One of the approaches I’ve seen work well is what I call the SIT approach. This is:
- Segment: Pull apart your subscribers into segments that you may want to more heavily engage
- Inquire: Ask frequently for feedback that will help you understand how you can continue to improve
- Teach: Teach these subscribers to be happier. This one sounds weird – but you’ll see it’s a critical aspect.
Let’s look at each of these.
Segment your audiences
If you look at the analytics of your audience database, you can begin to see patterns where subscribers are opting out. You may find that people tend to opt out right after receiving the second email of the month. Or, perhaps you notice that people are unsubscribing after a particular number of emails. Or, perhaps you discover that people who come in from a particular source are unsubscribing more than others. For example, we worked with one company who was having a hard time holding newsletter subscribers that came in from social channels.
Whatever the case may be – you may find that you want to split some of these groups into “at risk” subscribers. Then, you can explore ways to start to both understand, as well as mitigate the reasons why they are unsubscribing. Perhaps you can send this group a poll, and ask what you might do to better serve them. Or, you might send them a poll asking why they subscribed to begin with?
In the case of the company that was seeing a lot of “at risk” subscriptions coming from social, we isolated them and sent them a poll asking their primary reason for subscribing. As it turns out, the “social subscribers” were expecting fresh, timely updates on the news. The company was sending a monthly update, and so these “social subscribers” weren’t seeing the main value for which they signed up for. Ironically, segmenting them into a separate list that sent weekly updates (that’s right, MORE email) actually improved the subscription retention rate from that particular source.
Inquire your audiences
Segmenting your audiences can be a great way to identify those groups who are likely to leave. But, another way is of course to look at your entire audience database and see how you can deliver more effective content value to them.
One key approach is to balance your content out to them. Ask yourself how much of your content looks for input, or feedback. If you never send your audiences a note asking them how they feel, or what they’re thinking about, or what is most valuable to them – you may find that over time you’ve drifted way off course – and you are losing your subscribers as a result.
This is especially important if you are using marketing automation and drip campaigns. Watch for “dormant” subscribers. For example, if you haven’t seen any action from a registrant to your resource center after a couple of campaign emails, you may want to have an automated note to send to them saying something like:
“we’ve noticed that you registered for our Resource Center, but haven’t actually visited yet. Is there anything we can get for you?”
And perhaps even send that along with a poll question, or something they can simply respond to within the email.
The key with inquiry is that it reinforces the fact that you are not just sending them email after email. You are truly trying to communicate with them. And, frankly, if they don’t respond after an inquiry or two – you may be better off unsubscribing them yourself.
Teaching subscribers how to be subscribers
I told you this one sounded a little odd – but it’s not really that weird when you unwrap it a bit. One of the things to realize is that our audiences are busy, and we are not nearly the most important thing on their to-do list. Many times subscribers to our emails can go cold, but it’s because they are simply trying to find time to get to the content we have sent. How many times have you seen an email in your inbox and you say “oh, I really want to read that – but I just don’t have time right now.” The challenge is you forget about it – and then it either gets deleted, or falls so low in your inbox that becomes nonexistent.
A wonderful technique for communicating with subscribers is to occasionally let them know how they can best use the services that they signed up for. In other words, if your email newsletter is to people who have signed up for your thought leadership center, or your blog, occasionally you should send them an email saying “hey, if it feels like you’ve missed some of our best stuff, we’ve got you covered.” Or, send them a helpful quick guide of everything in your resource center. If you were introducing somebody to your blog – what should they expect? Teach them.
The key here is to teach your subscribers, and remind them why they signed up in the first place. Don’t just send them the thought leadership, send them helpful content that illustrates how they can get the most value out of your thought leadership.
One client we worked with had a large number of “at risk” subscribers who had clicked through to the company’s online university, but they never logged in. They guessed that these subscribers might be overwhelmed by the many choices and time commitment to take classes and watch the webinars. They decided to send an email to these subscribers featuring a 1 minute video teaching them about the university, and how it was actually easy to stop and start and do the classes at your own pace. They had incredible results in increasing the participation of those “at risk” subscribers.
Integrating all of these is best
As you look at the SIT (Segment, Inquire and Teach) approach, you can quickly see how each of them can and should play a role with the others. Regardless if it’s a simple email newsletter, or a fully automated marketing automation campaign, the critical thing with developing an active, engaged subscriber base is to look at your platform as a two way communication street. If all we do is look at our email as a series of campaigns meant to drive conversions, we will ultimately create people who want to unsubscribe. But on the other hand, if we look at our email as an operation, built to consistently engage our audiences, and listen to their needs – then we build an owned media property that not only retains our current audience, but attracts new ones day after day.