For marketers, it boils down to this: Do you make it hard or easy to find your unsubscribe feature in your email marketing campaigns?
Google made the decision for you with Gmail: It's easy. It's right at the top now.
Bottom line for marketers? This change should not affect your campaigns so long as your focus is on engaging content that creates legitimate customer prospects and not on building large marketing lists, said Ann Breckencamp, product manager for CommandIQ, a CRM platform provider.
"Too many marketers are overly concerned with just trying to keep people on their mailing list," Breckencamp said. "The silver lining in Google’s new unsubscribe feature is that it should get marketers to focus instead on what really matters: driving true engagement with subscribers on a one-to-one basis."
CMSWire talked to Breckencamp about how marketers can use the Gmail change as an impetus to make their email campaigns better.
Get Over Your List
What's a good general strategy regarding the unsubscribe feature for marketers?
Your primary concern should not be maintenance of your subscriber base -- or making sure no one drops off. Retention, engagement and revenue require happy customers, Breckencamp said. Not just customers, period.
"Simply keeping people on your list should not be a goal because it isn’t necessarily going to drive your bottom-line business," she said. "If you are building one-to-one relationships with your customers and they actually enjoy hearing from you, they will want to stay subscribed, and you will be in a better position to achieve your larger business objectives."
Keep your customer data up-to-date, no matter where it lives in your ecosystem.
Make it One-Click
One-click rocks. There's a company that puts out interesting industry webinars once a month or so, and this reporter always sign up. And not just because the topics are good: they have one-click registration.
"Anything other than a one-click unsubscribe option is probably irritating to someone who has already made the decision to be removed from a mailing list," Breckencamp said.
Are you creating a barrier to completing the unsubscribe process? Maybe requiring people to reply to the email with a special subject line or redirecting them to the company website where they can modify their email settings?
"Anything that takes more than a couple seconds of time is probably going to make the person feel like the company is trying to force, or even trick, him/her into staying on the list," Breckencamp said. "This has obviously been a turnoff to a large number of people. Thus the high frequency of legitimate marketing emails being marked as spam and the introduction of Gmail’s new unsubscribe feature."
Focus on Content Improvement
It's not about the unsubscribe feature. That shouldn't matter if a marketing campaign is effective.
Make your customer data actionable and start testing out more targeted campaigns. Start by improving your segments, creating more dynamic message content and adding follow-up interactions.
"This can be an especially scary transition when you’re trying to move away from practices that you know are driving baseline success," Breckencamp said.
Deploy your new strategy to a subset of your customers before rolling it out to everyone. Use your test campaign results to project the full-scale impact.
"As you’re thinking about how to improve your customer interactions, also think about frequency of communication," Breckencamp added. "Most people are not going to be thrilled to get a stack of messages from you."
Your rules should include:
- Controlling how many messages each person can receive from you over a given time period
- Determining which message should be sent if the person qualifies for more than one
Of course, email's not the only option. Communicate with prospects through the channels they are most active to reduce the dependency on email and engage them in more personalized way.
"Some people are going to prefer your push notifications over your emails," Breckencamp said, "but that’s not going to be the case for everyone. Your usage data can help you understand where to draw that line based on each person’s preferences and habits."
Avoid These Scenarios
These mistakes can push your customers toward the unsubscribe button:
- If a customer just upgraded to a VIP membership this morning, he/she will be annoyed to receive an offer to purchase the same package later in the day. Make sure the data you use to segment your customers is up-to-date. If it’s even a couple hours old, it may not reflect your customers’ most recent actions.
- If a customer only browses clearance items, he/she probably doesn’t care about this season’s new line of designer handbags retailing at more than $1,000. Use behavioral data to personalize the content of every message, and to exclude people from receiving the communication if it isn’t relevant to their interests.
- If a customer lives in Chicago, it is unlikely he/she will be interested to know that LAX-JFK flights are on sale. Don’t forget your customer profile data. It will help you target your offers, especially when viewed alongside behavioral data.
- If a customer has never opened a weekend email from you, continuing to send him/her emails on weekends is not doing anything besides cluttering the inbox. Send your messages at times when your customers are most responsive, and reduce the frequency of communication to people demonstrating declining engagement so you don’t push them over the edge.
"Each of your customers is at a different stage of the lifecycle, has a different set of interests and possesses different goals for what he/she wants from your company," Breckencamp said. "Leveraging the data you’ve collected will allow you to learn about your customers and craft a unique experience for each person that drives his/her long-term engagement."