Do You Respect Your Subscribers?

Bowing In RespectWe often hear that permission email marketing is about building relationships. Build a relationship with subscribers, the mantra goes, and you’ll create customers for life.

Unfortunately, many email marketers don’t think about what it means to build a relationship with subscribers. They hear the mantra and believe they’re following it — but in practice they take subscribers for granted and treat them like wallets with email addresses.

Do you show your subscribers the respect they deserve?

Or do you overlook these areas of respect that help you build a quality subscriber relationship?

Respect Subscribers’ Permission

  • Have you ever been subscribed to the email list for one brand, and received an email out of the blue from another brand (that happens to be owned by the same company)?

    How does it feel? What do you typically do?

When people sign up to your list, they’re giving you a valuable resource: permission to email them.

However, that permission is temporary. Subscribers can revoke it at any time.

It is also specific: subscribers give a specific person (you) permission to email them a specific set of information (what they signed up for).

Respect that specific permission in your email marketing campaigns, and your subscribers will trust and respect you. Fail to respect it, though, and things can go downhill fast.

  • Send subscribers what they asked for.
  • Don’t send an email about some product or topic that subscribers have never heard you talk about before and expect them to see the connection.

    If you want to introduce content or products that are not perfectly related to what subscribers signed up for, go slowly and deliberately.

Respect Subscribers’ Privacy

Subscribers are your #1 asset as an email marketer.

And yet, some companies permit others to email their subscribers (even though subscribers almost never want this – regardless of whether they were aware that would happen when they signed up).

Others don’t remove unsubscribes in a timely fashion (this isn’t a problem at email marketing solutions like AWeber, where we automatically process unsubscribes for you – but it can be a problem for others who manage their email campaigns manually).

This foolish disrespect of subscribers’ privacy not only hurts those companies’ reputation, it makes people less likely to trust others with their email addresses.

Once you’ve earned subscribers’ trust enough for them to sign up, be part of the solution. Respect subscribers’ privacy.

  • Don’t share subscribers’ information with others. Subscribers signed up to get emails from you, not from some other company.
  • Remove unsubscribes promptly (or just use AWeber and we’ll handle that for you).

Respect Subscribers’ Time

You might not be charging subscribers money to be on your list, but don’t be fooled: a subscription to your list is not “free.”

It costs subscribers time to:

  1. Stop
  2. Open your email
  3. Read the content inside
  4. Decide what to do with that information

Those costs are significant, because your subscribers are busy people and their time is valuable.

Subscribers sign up to your list because they feel that the benefits they will get from your emails will exceed those costs.

If you’re not delivering relevant, valuable content, you’re telling your subscribers that you don’t think their time is valuable. That’s disrespectful, and a sure-fire way to make them unsubscribe.

  • Make sure that next email you’re sending is worth (far) more to subscribers than the time it takes them to read it.

Respect Subscribers, And They’ll Respect You

And that’s the first step to any successful relationship.

UPDATE 1/12/09: Andrew Kordek (who runs Sears’ email marketing program) shares his thoughts on subscriber respect. Good stuff.