Set Expectations With an Email Routine


Subscribers and email marketers alike are creatures of habit. We find comfort in the ordinary and expected daily course of action.

Most of us probably even follow similar morning routines. We wake up, drink our coffee and get a move on with our day – squeezing in a few minutes to check our email either before or after we reach the office.

Believe it or not, those self-imposed procedures that we follow repetitiously have a lot to do with how we respond to the email marketing efforts of the companies we follow.

Some companies understand this and set proper expectations for their readers, while others aren’t quite there yet. Keep reading to see who gets it right, and how you can do the same with your own email marketing campaign!

Why Set Expectations?

It’s important that subscribers recognize your messages and form an attachment to the times and formats that you send them in. You want readers to expect certain things in your emails because when they do they tend to open, click and share the emails with others.

Long after you send your first autoresponder to your subscribers, you continue to create expectations whether you try to or not. Before a subscriber signs up, you create expectations by offering samples of your newsletter or explaining exactly what a subscriber will receive on the thank you page.

A few months later, your subscribers aren’t going to remember what you promised to send them. Most likely they won’t bother to return to your website to find out, either. So, what should you do?

Keep It Consistent

Recognition is a huge component of successful email marketing. Everything from the subject line and from line to the template that you use is important when setting expectations. You want your readers to identify your emails when they see them in their inbox.

Jay, who runs our webinars, gets emails from Tiger Direct on a regular basis. He loves gadgets, and loves getting them at affordable prices even more. Normally, Tiger Direct sends heavily styled messages that show glossy laptops and TVs like this one:

The other day, however, this plain text message landed in Jay’s inbox:

He happened to click on it, but really had no idea who the message was coming from or what it was regarding. It was even signed by the company’s president, Carl Fiorentino, but since none of the other messages mention his name, Jay was clueless.

While plain text messages certainly have many helpful benefits, when they show up out of the blue they can still be overlooked and ineffective. Make sure that your emails are consistent. Whether they are plain text or HTML, the appearance of your messages will become a trademark that your readers will recognize.

Set a Routine

We talk about the importance of sticking to the schedule a lot, yet this is an approach I’ve never encountered before. Daily Worth, a site dedicated to helping women manage their finances responsibly, keeps their schedule crystal clear for readers and email subscribers.

In each message that they send, they include an image at the top of the email to indicate the subject matter of the message. The content is the same every week on the specified day, making it easy for subscribers to identify the message and decide whether or not they want to continue reading.

You can easily do something similar with your own campaign, creating an image that mirrors your content schedule. Just be sure to include the day, the content and what they can expect to receive the next day.

How Do You Set Expectations?

Do you set expectations at sign up with your web form? Carry that through to your newsletters?

We’d love to hear how you keep subscribers informed and ready for your next messages! Let us know in the comments below.

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9 Comments

  1. This is a GREAT topic and definitely one I’m struggling with a little bit. I sometimes email my subscribers once per week and sometimes three or even four times. So I believe sometimes they really don’t know what to expect.

    I did, however, set that expectation when they signed up by telling them they will get frequent emails from me at an average of three per week.

    I would love to get into a routine, maybe Monday, Wednesday, Friday or something like that so that my subscribers know to expect an email from me on a consistent basis.

    I also used to have HTML in my emails with my logo and branding but I decided to switch to plain text in the last few months. I did so because it’s quicker to get the emails out and looks more like a personal message. I realize now this switch may have confused some people based on the example you showed above!

    This post has given me some great food for thought on how to improve my campaigns. Thanks so much!

    4/19/2011 8:41 am
  2. Really helpful article; consistency is the key. But also recognition as I read now; very good and very doable. I will implement this for sure

    4/19/2011 10:57 am
  3. We always help our clients set up expectations on their squeeze page or opt in – usually 3-5 bullets or benefits- and we give them something up front if possible, but communicate that the benefits will be on-going in the form of helpful information, VIP offers, discount coupons- etc-

    Then we re-iterate it on the welcome email if we can –

    Here is one example we did for an Animal Hospital whereby they had a ton of foot traffic, but no email AR program or customer appreciation program. . .

    http://www.munstervip.com/

    Their list is still growing. . .

    We have not done much split testing on html vs. plain text – but I can see how changing it up without letting them know would perhaps catch them unexpected and throw a curveball to which they might not respond favorably. . .

    Great article. . .

    4/19/2011 11:34 am
  4. Great post,

    I have some questions. How do you set up a sequence of emails like the one by Daily Worth? People don’t necessarily sign up on a Monday. If they sign up on a Thursday how do you assure that their first email in the autoresponder sequence will be the one with the Friday image?

    Another question, I joined Daily Worth email list and they asked for further information about my interests after I gave them my email, how did they do that?

    Thanks in advance.

    4/22/2011 8:34 pm
  5. Olivia ~ You would do this with broadcasts instead of autoresponders. Then you could just set Friday’s broadcast to go out to everyone, no matter when they signed up, on Friday.

    As for asking for preferences after sign-up, a good way to do that is in a welcome email or autoresponder – then you can segment by the responses.

    4/25/2011 8:34 am
  6. I really like the template for the daily worth newsletter sample. Can you advise on which template they are using?

    8/24/2011 12:24 pm
  7. Thanks for such a clear and concise article! This outlines some great reasons why it is so important to be consistent and communicate effectively through your campaigns to your readers. I truly feel that consistency helps drive trust, which is vital in developing a great relationship with your customer. A good relationship is a key component, if not the most important, for retention.

    2/16/2012 8:42 am
  8. damebochiew

    I think expectations are indeed very important. Once you set your goals and are well aware of your expectations, it is very hard to fail

    6/4/2012 4:47 pm