Improve email success by setting (and metting) expectations

When planning your email strategy, two questions should come to mind. What do your internal stakeholders expect from the program? What do your customers expect from your email communications?

First, note that we use the term “email strategy” rather than “email marketing.” That’s because email now spans a broad range of customer communications, including on-boarding, system notifications and operational messages. Yes, and there’s marketing too–newsletters, targeted cross-selling, educational content, sales automation and more. So your customers are receiving multiple messages, probably from different systems in your organization. By setting expectations across the board, you’ll avoid some common pitfalls that can hamper your program’s effectiveness.

Setting expectations with stakeholders

Stakeholders include IT, risk/compliance, e-commerce, marketing, operations and, of course, senior management. Each of these groups has a different worldview and expectation from email. Compliance concerns will differ from those of your lending team, while operations will be scrutinizing integration and data synchronization. Unless you are prepared to build YAS (Yet Another Silo), it’s best to bring stakeholders and their concerns to the table early in your plan. Things to consider include:

* Program goals should be geared to nurturing existing customer relationships and delivering relevant information. Anything you (and your team) can do to generate content and campaigns that are better targeted will improve your program. current email addresses as a key initiative. Reliability and reach pay off dramatically.

* Include a plan to keep your front-line and other key departments informed about campaigns and messages so that they can interact accordingly with customers.

* Avoid the trap of “cold prospecting” via email. Most prospecting emails to rented lists are viewed negatively and this could result in email reputation issues that may affect delivery of other legitimate messages.

Setting expectations with customers

Let customers know what they can expect to receive and how it will benefit them. A common error is to put all communications under a single category, such as a newsletter. While newsletters are a great tool, many of today’s hyper-communicated customers prefer shorter, more focused messages.

That’s where an email preference center helps. By offering customers the choice of what to receive, you help set expectations that lead to greater subscriber engagement and retention. Instead of grouping everything into a single “content track,” consider breaking your program down into multiple topics (small-business tools, wealth management, workshops, for example). This also benefits you in that subscribers can choose what they don’t want, instead of opting out of all your communications. It also identifies those subscribers more likely to respond to certain types of messages.

The preference center is also where you can reinforce the difference between marketing and “operational” messages (e.g., privacy notices, service interruptions, eStatement notices, etc.), which do not require an opt-out and may be sent to those who previously opted out of marketing messages. Here again, this sets important expectations.

In reality, the vast majority of your customers want to receive your email–especially if it meets their expectations. Also keep in mind that email is increasingly becoming a mobile channel, so if your concern is staying in touch with customers on the go, email is part of the solution. Setting (and meeting) expectations goes a long way to retaining subscribers and achieving your goals.