As someone once said, April 1st is the one day of the year that people actually check to see if what they’re being told on the Internet is true.
It’s a great day for companies wanting to engage their customers and have a little bit of fun – and while it has in latter years become a little predictable, there’s still something about it that is enjoyable.
The thing is though, the content being produced really only has a lifespan of a couple of days. Many companies go to great effort to produce believable material for people to consume only to be told it’s a joke.
But what if it wasn’t just a one off? What if brands had such a focus on their real products and services that they were able to produce content as good as the content on April fools day? To me it seems we’d live in a much more interesting world.
Take the following email from Contiki – it’s a great example of a fun company making their content fun. Almost believable, and worth pursuing to engage with them.
Here’s a surefire way for you to lose subscribers and alienate people who have been reading your emails: Change your brand and then introduce the new one really poorly.
Here’s an email that I received a few days ago introducing me to a new brand – a brand new brand if you may. As you look at it – ask a single question: Who or what was the old brand?
The answer: Who knows.
Here’s what went wrong
When you work on a new brand for your business, it’s an intense period of time. Picking logos, colours, brand descriptions, new brand values, names, and doing it all over again because some boss decides that they don’t like the shade of blue you used plus their daughter said they could have done a better job. It really can be a long journey.
But your subscribers haven’t been on that journey – so they have no idea. Clearly you need to introduce the new brand to them.
Which is what this email is trying to do. It’s trying to get existing subscribers on to the new brand that has been slaved over for quite some time. I’m sure it’s really exciting for the team who have done it to finally get something out.
But the subscriber has no idea who you are.
As far as this email goes, the subscriber has never heard of you. Your hard work sending all those emails in the last few years, the brand engagement, social, all of it – useless. If you never say who you were, nobody will know who you now are.
When this email came into my inbox, I first thought ‘oh look – someone has shared my email with another business. Must be spam!’
Your subscribers are going to say the same thing. They’re going to ask themselves, ‘When did I sign up to this? What’s the old brand anyway?’
How to do it well
Show your old brand
The primary way of explaining who you now are is to contrast with the anchor point of the old brand. Yes, this email says, “we are now a new brand” but it never said who they were before. It never anchors the new brand in something old – to show the real difference between the new and the old.
Use your subject line
Use your subject line to express an element of news, “Welcome to the new…”, “X Brand is now Y Brand”, “Come & see what’s new…” there’s so many ways you could write it.
Even if your subscribers don’t open the email – there is still the element of communicating the point with just the subject line.
Take your time and repeat, repeat, repeat
Sending a single email to your subscribers is not enough. Continue to reinforce that the brand has changed for a period of time. Even if it’s 30 days and you include it in a preheader, footer, or some element of the email that is clear but not overriding the main purpose of the message you’re sending.
I’ve been researching the tourism and travel industry’s use of email marketing for the last year, and have observed that apart from a few stand outs, the bulk of the industry isn’t doing email marketing well.
A statistic that stands out to me when I look at my research is that the average delay between signup and first contact is 9 days – and that’s if there’s even an email sent. Of those brands who I have monitored 38% haven’t even sent me an initial email after subscription.
That’s why I provide advice and assistance for marketers who might be looking to improve their email efforts, and get a smooth and effective marketing rhythm.
With limited resources and people stretched thin trying to do everything demanded, many CMOs feel like they are hard pressed just to complete the basics, let alone get a head start on the work that requires some level of thinking! And with 38% of businesses not even sending a FIRST email – it’s clear that there’s a lot more to be done.
What follows is a simple and easy to follow outline on how to do a welcome series of emails. I’ve been working in email marketing for the last 12 years, and I have a particular focus on understanding and thinking about what subscribers want to hear about. I believe subscribers want to hear from you quickly, often, and with a load of value attached.
Why you should make contact quickly
When it comes to our attention span online, we are notoriously impatient. We’re so impatient in fact that the measure of a website’s loading speed is directly related to revenue generated.
When Shopzilla dropped latency from seven seconds to two, revenue went up seven-12 percent and page views jumped 25 percent (source).
Don’t load your website fast enough? Potential revenue will be lost.
Get out of the bin
The same is true for the speed at which you speak a subscriber after they have given you their details. Attention is so precious that if they have bothered to provide you their email address – then you have something of great value. Make sure you get the most out of it.
The speed at which you respond, and reinforce your brand matters. The risk is that people will move on. And they will.
Not only will people forget about your brand, but if you take too long to send an email to them you’re going to get binned or reported for spam, as the link between subscription and first email is easily forgotten if it’s not within the realm of a single day.
Make useful contact immediately
Making the most of a new subscriber is more than just saying ‘thank you’ and then leaving them hang while you get a few ideas together for the next newsletter.
The person subscribing clearly sees value in your business – and they’re interested in what you have to offer. So the next steps you need to make are steps that reinforce that value.
Here’s where an automated welcome series is going to be so super useful.
By reinforcing value through communication of further value you’ll be building a case for this person to book with you instead of your competition. You’ll deepen both the knowledge and tie to your business that your subscriber has – and place you front of mind.
A basic but effective method for marketing automation
I want to outlay a really simple way of getting started with marketing automation. It’s not tricky, and people have been doing it for a lot longer than the phrase ‘marketing automation’ has been around. We used to call them autoresponders.
The three step ‘welcome and delight’ series
It’s a very simple method, and it gives you a really great basis for sending further content to your new subscriber.
Here’s what you’re going to send:
- Something quickly.
- Something of value.
- Something to do.
1. Something quickly
The first welcome email is an opportunity to quickly and easily make first contact and set expectations. Sending your email quickly is the best way to reinforce sign up recognition – so that the subscriber even remembers giving you their details.
Send this email within 24hrs of a subscriber joining your program.
In your content, include a welcome (not a thank you) and remind them where they signed up. You’ll also want to set the expectation of what type of content you’ll be sending to subscribers (discounts, tips, news), and if you’re going to be making the emails personal then introduce the person who is sending your emails.
It’s very simple.
2. Something of value
This is where a lot of businesses get tripped up. What’s next? How do I communicate anything other than just “Here’s a discount?”
There is so much more to offer than discounts or prices. Use this second welcome email to reinforce the value of your brand, and what your business has to offer.
Brands often use this email to share with subscribers a tip, or something useful that they may not easily know about.
It could be a ‘getting started’ email where you lay out useful or valuable information on how to do business with your brand.
Some other ideas include:
- How to contact a person the business
- Services that you have to offer other than your core product
- A preference center for how to control your emails
- What other customers find helpful or useful from the business
- Hotels you could even offer ways for subscribers to customise their experience when staying
There are so many ways you can help a customer do business with you, and give them true value. Make this the focus of your second email.
Send this email the day after the first email. Two days, two emails.
3. Something to do
Really what you’re looking at here is the call to act and get a subscriber over the line. The first two emails bring additional value to the subscriber by way of introduction and additional useful information.
The third is going to ask the subscriber to take action.
Put a great value offer to the subscriber, give them additional reasons to purchase and make sure there’s a clear way of taking that action.
This is another simple email.
- Make a clear and concise subject & headline with what you’re offering
- Show the offer & lay out the benefits of purchase
- Make sure there’s a visible, clickable button with active wording – ‘buy now’, ‘book now’, ‘get tickets’.
- Reinforce social proof with a testimony, or increase urgency with a time limit
Send this email on day three after your subscriber has joined your list.
Three emails – three days.
Just do something
The key with this approach is to start something, keep it simple and finish it quickly.
Once it’s set up, you can let it ride for a while, measure the results and then tweak and measure changes.
It can be easy to get caught up in the day to day – grinding out print ads, Facebook posts, Instagram pics, and just get caught in the ‘instant’ world. Getting an email marketing welcome series up like this will provide value, and greater engagement with subscribers who are far more likely to purchase with you.
So give it a go!
The Disney-owned Maker Studios and YouTube have pulled away from PewDiePie, one of the video platform’s most popular stars, after a report that he had posted several videos featuring anti-Semitic imagery. SMH
PewDiePie’s revenue has just taken a big hit. It’s reported that last year he earned US$15 million, and now that YouTube and Maker Studios have distanced themselves from his content he’s got to be hurting.
Which raises the question for me. With 53 million subscribers on his Youtube channel, and billions of video views – what has he done to secure the future of his audience?
While the good times roll this probably isn’t much of an issue. The people stay, the money rolls in.
But what happens if you get dropped? What happens if your audience goes somewhere else?
Use your popularity to own your audience.
A single subject line stood out today.
“It’s a holiday you need, not a valentine”
At least they’re saying out loud what the others are effectively doing.
It has not been a good Valentine’s Day for creativity in the travel & tourism industry.
Email marketing data can be useful to help target people well, and storing this information in your ESP is easy. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, then you’re really going to be opening yourself up to problems.
Marketers use pages called ‘preference centers’ as a way of including the subscriber in the collecting of data, and allowing subscribers to see and edit the information about themselves.
Good preference centers can help with:
- Subscribers nominating different types of newsletters they’d like to receive
- Allowing subscribers to determine when they would like to hear from you
- If subscribers like to pause receiving emails instead of unsubscribing
- Collecting information after the subscription process in an easily done way
But marketers don’t always want to show subscribers everything they know about a subscriber, and they definitely don’t want subscribers to be able to edit every piece of information about themselves.
How Preference Centers Can Go Bad
On this particular website where signup happens, you can see above that the only field available to the subscriber is for their email address. This is a great, low friction way of getting a subscription.
But that’s about as good as it gets. From the first email received it all starts to go wrong.
Wordlwide, many marketers use Mailchimp – and with Mailchimp having a preference center is pretty much automatic. If you’re using a Mailchimp template then the link to the customer preference center is automatically inserted into the footer of your email. Have a squiz below.
It’s small but it’s there every time an email goes out unless you do something about it.
The following example is real, and is not uncommon.
Yeah it’s not great. It is possible that those fields are used by someone manually importing data in through a CRM tool or other system, but to have a birthday field, and last name field in there twice plus ‘untitled’ just speaks of disorganised, haphazard approach to managing data. It’s really not great.
It’s likely the person managing the email account isn’t aware that these fields are exposed, nor that the option to hide them exists.
But there’s easy ways to avoid this kind of experience:
- Make sure that all public facing data options are clearly marked in your ESP, and thoroughly checked.
- Keep your data clean – make sure you only have one field of any type. Multiple birthdays for a single person? It’s not a thing.
- Don’t allow me to add myself to mailings you wouldn’t want me receiving (I just joined HR and racks – let’s see what happens).
- Test, test, test. For each email you send out make sure you click everything and see what a customer will see.
The ‘form’ shown in the email below contains data that encourages a subscriber to update their details. Upon clicking on the form entry, or item it takes the subscriber to a landing page where a subscriber can input/update their details.
For some this is deceptive behaviour
Some people think that forms in email are not real, they don’t represent a true user experience so when you click on them and they take you to another place, they’re being deceptive. As a result brand equity is diminished, and trust with the brand is eroded.
Others are okay with it
Maybe it’s simply a way for you to get the recipient to take an action, and we often step people through multiple step processes. When you go to shopping carts, or go through multiple step signup forms that reduce big tasks into smaller steps.
What do you think?
As far as well developed welcome series go, I haven’t seen many in the travel and tourism sector. Most businesses focus on getting straight to the specials, and discounts rather than introducing subscribers to the value of having subscribed, or the benefits of subscribing.
As such, it was quite a change to see this very simple 4 email welcome series from Club Carlson – the global hotel rewards program from Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.
Now you might be thinking what I initially thought when I saw these, ‘What’s going on with those subject lines? They look like they written by children.’ And to be honest initially I had the same reaction. But here’s another perspective – they provide a context and anchor for the reader, and without being tricky tell you where you’re up to and what to expect in the future.
There’s no emoji, there’s no ALL CAPS SUBJECTS, you’re not teased or baited – you just know what to expect inside the email.
Personally I would have chosen something a little more subtle, or crafted – but amongst the throng of emails received on those days, these subject lines actually stood out.
What do you think? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.
Welcome 2 of 3: Ways to earn Gold Points
The content of the emails themselves is a methodical example of how to introduce someone to your brand, the benefits of being subscribed (or in a club), and what to do next. They’re clean, straight forward and explain in three simple emails, what you likely want to hear about having just joined their club.
The Carlson Club is a loyalty club and so of course it has loyalty points. But they don’t leave you to work out how the points work and how to get them.
- You know from the top of the email what account you’re reading for, and how many points you have
- There’s a clear explanation of the mechanism that helps you accumulate points, it’s clear and easy to understand.
- You can earn more points by purchasing, or downloading their app
- You know what the next goal is because you can ‘build towards Elite status’
In a very simple email, it’s quite clear how Club Carlson wants you to behave and interact with them.
Overall this is the flow of their emails. With four well timed, simple introductory emails, you should be well familiar with the brand by the time you’re all the way through (or at least have seen the email subject lines).
This is a rare example of an onboarding process looking like it has had thought put into it. While there may be stylistic changes, and alterations once email results come in – at least from the perspective of the customer this is a strong piece.
I love that Intrepid Travel put their values up front with this email. They’re a travel company, they’re not pretending to be anything else. But this has a real and powerful note from their MD James Thornton.
On their landing page James has the full story about what they stand for, along with this assurance.
Intrepid stands against any policy that closes borders, separates families, discriminates against religion or demonises the less fortunate. As global travellers, as people with a conscience, this isn’t something we can sit and watch. Not in silence.
It’s refreshing to see a company engaging thoughtfully their customers & subscribers on a matter that is pertinent to their business and customer needs.
We’ll be doing everything we can to help travellers and passengers affected by the current changes. But in the meantime, we strongly urge all governments to treat foreign visitors – whoever they may be – with tolerance, compassion and an open mind.