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No Idea Why You’re Losing Email Subscribers? Email Marketing As Usual Isn’t Cutting It

 

Every free download you can get your hands on that promises the Holy Grail of increasing email subscribers by 10x lives on your laptop.

 

Because growing your list and sending out emails is the fastest way to turn prospects into customers. Right?

 

Conventional marketing wisdom may say so, but there’s a not so tiny problem getting in the way.

 

Your emails aren’t making it to your subscribers’ inboxes

 

Take a look at recent studies and benchmark reports about email deliverability rates and consumer’s thoughts on email marketing, and you might be stunned.

 

According to Return Path, 24% of emails sent by businesses in the second quarter of 2016 did not land in subscriber’s inboxes. The U.S. had the lowest placement rate in the world with only 69% of emails reaching consumers.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a disturbing trend (well… maybe only disturbing if you’re an online marketer.) Emails from some of my favorite businesses stopped landing in my inboxes. And I couldn’t figure it out.

 

“Why would businesses whose emails I open regularly scrub me from their lists?” which is what I asked myself until I had the bright idea of checking my spam folder.

 

And there amidst the “Buy Meds Cheap” and phishing expeditions by the likes of a Mrs. Angela lily appeared email after email from those companies I had been missing.

 

spam emails

 

A sampling from the pu pu platter that is my spam folder

E-commerce, B2B, no matter the type or legitimacy of the business their emails had been lumped together with Russian hackers, penis enlargement devices, and the grammatically challenged.

 

Which begs the question, “Why are so many emails turning into spam bait?”

 

There are the obvious reasons: the uptick in phishing scams and marketers gaming the system to improve open rates.

Anything that looks deceptive, suspicious, or overly hyperbolic runs the risk of never making it to an inbox.

This can be as simple as using one too many spam triggering words in a subject line (“free” and “hidden” are the new “Viagra” and “unsecured debt”) or littering an email with exclamation points.  

 

To avoid the pitfalls of a subject line like the one above check out this list of spam trigger words from Automational and this one from Hubspot as a guide.

 

And then there’s a little ol’ thing called a reputation.

 

Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL use a combination of metrics to decide whether or not your emails are inbox worthy. How your subscribers engage with your emails and respond to them affects your reputation as a sender. These are things like messages read, forwarded, replied to, and marked as spam.

According to a survey by Fluent of nearly 2,000 Americans, 41% claim to ignore emails while another 41% unsubscribe from a list after receiving unwanted marketing emails.

Even worse, 11% move the email to their spam folder with 7% reporting it as spam.

Every time we take action signaling disinterest in the emails we’re receiving, our email providers take note and start filtering on our behalf whether we like it or not.

But there’s a deeper, more fundamental reason why well-meaning emails have disappeared into spam folders never to be seen again.

And it’s one you might not have considered.

 

Consumers are sick and tired of email marketing as usual. 

 

Discovering what’s going on in an email subscriber’s head is as easy as reading your Facebook news feed

 

Just last month while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed I noticed a question in one of the closed small business groups that piqued my interest. With over 300 responses, it had apparently hit a nerve.

 

FB group survey question

Melyssa Griffin’s Facebook group has over 50,000 members. You’ll find some great advice and a treasure trove of voice of customer insights around what challenges online small business owners face.

 

Always a sucker for customer research, I felt compelled to find out why all these people chose to respond. 

So I categorized the responses, tallied them up, and gleaned some interesting (if not entirely surprising insights) from them.

Here are the top reasons why your subscribers are ready to abandon your list… and what you can do about it.

 

#1: They receive too many emails

 

Across the board, respondents complained about the sheer volume of marketing emails they receive with the frequency being the biggest source of annoyance.

Receiving emails more than once a week seemed to be the tipping point for most people. Anything above that threshold unless there was a very compelling reason (such as a one-off sale or special announcement) sent them to the unsubscribe link.

 

Pro tip —> Set expectations from the moment someone signs up

 

Not many brands can get away with showing up in a person’s inbox constantly without quickly turning them off. If you’re going to try it, make sure you:

  • Clearly set expectations when someone signs up with language letting them know how often they will get emails and the type of content in them
  • Make sure you’re sending them content that interests them

For example, I receive a daily email from Dave Pell of NextDraft. He curates what he considers the top 10 news stories of the day and delivers the list with a bit of commentary.

 

Next Draft landing page

From the NextDraft opt-in landing page

 

Almost without fail, I open, read, and at least click on a couple of links in his daily email. I’m okay with the frequency because it’s expected and full of content I’m itching to see.

 

Next Draft email

 

#2: You asked for the sale too soon or too often

 

Based on the responses, bombarding your prospects with emails when they’re not ready to buy is counterproductive. The same holds true for hitting them up regularly with your offers.  

 

“If they constantly sell sell sell. I understand launching a product for a week or so but anything after that is just too much. Can’t possibly buy everything they have to offer.”

 

Here is an instance when taking the time to segment your email list based on things like what subscribers expressed interest in learning more about or past purchase behavior makes sense.

 

Ever bought an online course or product during a pre-launch special only to receive all the hard sell launch emails the next week? Yeah… me too. It’s exasperating.

 

Third party email providers have become highly sophisticated. A solution like Convertkit makes it easy to create tags and segment your users, so this doesn’t happen. It’s well worth the investment.

 

Pro tip —> Think beyond the coupon in your emails

 

You probably believe that this is all well and good but what about e-commerce stores. Aren’t people expecting the constant sales and coupons?

 

Yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to be sending them emails several times a week geared towards getting them to buy from you. In fact, you can test not only reducing the frequency but giving your subscribers another reason to connect with your brand.

 

Minted email

 

I love this email from the folks at Minted. As you scroll down the email, you find personal stories about their artists with photos and links to their designs online. Part of what differentiates Minted from the sea of online personalized stationery and photo gifts is their support of the independent design community.

 

Sharing what makes them special reminds me why I always choose their cards to send at the holidays and ignore their competitors.

 

#3: They don’t find value in reading your emails

 

Ouch. You’re spending a lot of time putting those emails together or money having someone else do it and they aren’t resonating with your subscribers.

 

In this case, the respondents discussed value regarding:

 

  • Relevance – receiving content that interests them
  • Applicability – receiving content that’s actionable or can easily be put to use
  • Originality – receiving changing/non-repetitive content

 

“If I get content that starts out like it’s going to be useful but only ends up telling me how important it is to do something rather than teaching me HOW to do it, I unsubscribe REALLY FAST.”

 

With all the competition for space in their inboxes, emails that didn’t speak to fixing a problem or filling a need got the boot.

 

Pro tip —> Help your subscribers accomplish their goals

 

One of the best ways you can express value to your prospects and customers is through helping them move from point A to B in their businesses. Achieving their goals starts with doing a bit of research into what their biggest challenges are and then carefully crafting solutions for them.

 

Psychology for Photographers email

An email from Jenika McDavitt of Psychology for Photographers

 

As Jenika so artfully does in this email, educate your subscribers about one particular thing they can improve upon to bring them closer to success. Doing so gives them a compelling reason to keep reading your content and (hopefully) buy from you further down the road.

 

#4: They think your emails are too long

 

I could have rolled this into reason #3 because a large part of the frustration with long emails has to do with relevance and expectations. If you’ve primed your audience to receive meaty emails from you that are engaging and speak to a need, length shouldn’t be an issue.

But, if an economy of words is not only expected but wanted from your subscribers giving them what feels like the equivalent of a Tolstoy novel in your emails is the surest way to alienate them.

 

Pro tip —> Ask your subscribers for feedback

 

It’s time to get meta and talk to your email subscribers about how they feel about your emails. You might think this is the last thing you want to do if you’re already worried about sending them emails too often or that are too long. But, it’s the surest way to understand better what they want and expect from you.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Be direct and to the point – This is the time to be brief.
  • Only ask for what you’re most interested in learning – This means to refrain from asking about the information you’re not prepared to act on.
  • Tell people why you want to know what you want to know – When you give people a reason to do something they are much more likely to follow through.

Check out my post on The Dreaded Email Survey: How to Get Customers to Respond for more help.

 

#5: You’re creeping them out

 

Yes, this is a thing. You might think you’re clever, fun, or authentic by addressing all your email subscribers with a nifty moniker, diving headfirst into uncomfortable personal details about your life, or getting down and dirty dropping f-bombs right and left.

You would be wrong.

Being genuine and expressing yourself as a real, relatable person your subscribers can trust are two different things. Only giving them what you think they want or whatever the marketing guru du jour says isn’t going to cut it.

 

“I sign up to watch a lot of webinars and often they all have the same types of sales funnels, style of writing, and email me too often. I don’t like when people try too hard to be relatable using a ‘hip’ tone of voice or when I get constant emails telling the same long winded story about how the writer was struggling and now makes 6 figures. Seems like they’re all just using the same templates and swapping out their blog or business names.”

 

Consumers are getting savvier. They can tell when you’re relying on gimmicks to make the sale.

 

Pro tip —> Mirror your prospects with words they use to describe themselves

 

One of the best ways to connect with your audience is by folding in their words and phrases into your copy. When you mirror back to them how they identify themselves along with their desires and challenges, they feel like you’re speaking their language.

My friend Rob over at Brand Story consistently writes some of the most engaging emails. He opens everyone with “Hey there marketing expert.”

 

BrandStory email

 

And then he goes on to talk about something that crosses just about every marketer’s mind at one time or another: what messages do my customers need to hear.

 

Contrast Rob’s email with this one I recently found in my inbox:

 

too friendly email

 

Buddy? I’m not Sujay’s buddy. I don’t offer WordPress services. And I can’t remember signing up for his emails.

 

On the other hand, Rob’s emails show up in my inbox every week without fail. He speaks to issues people like me have as a marketer. When he does ask for something of his subscribers, it’s only after sharing a boatload of his wisdom.

 

There’s nothing that feels “templated” about Rob’s emails. It’s like getting a welcomed email from someone you know.

Are you ready to take a long hard look at your emails?

 

If you haven’t realized it by now, listening to your customers is the surest way to improve your email marketing. When you understand what they want, need, and care about, you’re much more likely to connect with them.

 

And you’re far less likely to send them screaming for the unsubscribe button.

 

So don’t give the email providers or your subscribers any more reasons to toss your content into the spam folder. You might just find all that work you put into growing your list finally has paid off.

 

If you’re interested you can check out this national survey from Fluent and Litmus to see how my findings stack up.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

And take a look at this terrific infographic from the guys at Moosend. Go to their blog for more helpful information about running successful email campaigns.

Single Opt-in versus Double Opt-in infographic

When free shipping loses the sale

When Free Shipping Loses The Sale

The following scenario plays out in email inboxes everyday. Let me set the scene…

You get a friendly email from one of your favorite retailers letting you know that they’re having a special. Appealing looking pictures of pillows, pants, lawnmowers – whatever has been skirting the back of your mind but you haven’t wanted to pay full price for – gets delivered straight to your inbox.

There’s a coupon code in big capital letters with promises of free shipping.

“Sounds good,” you think. So, you bite.

You click through to the website only to find once you put the coupon code in at check out, you’re told that it doesn’t pertain to the items you chose.

You’re frustrated, annoyed, and likely ready to high tail it out of that website.

The offer of free shipping actually loses the sale because most people don’t like promises that aren’t kept. According to Statista, 56% of consumers surveyed in 2012 dropped out of the checkout process when confronted by unexpected costs.

Statista survey cart abandonment

Generally, this applies to things like additional fees or taxes that weren’t spelled out ahead of time. Getting hit with shipping when you’ve been told you won’t, definitely falls within the realm of unexpected.

Breaking down where it can all go pear shaped – a lesson from the real world

Let’s take a look at a real life example… see where things went wrong along the way.

Here’s the top portion of an email I received from a local company that I’m a huge fan of and have bought items from in the past.

 

When Free Shipping Loses the Sale

This jewelry company decided to use the Memorial Day holiday as an excuse to run a sale. Free shipping was the incentive which they made quite clear in the headline text and with the coupon code.

I searched around the email for a link or button directing me where to go. There was none as I scrolled to the bottom of the page. Eventually after clicking on the image, I was sent to the home page of the website.

A call to action with no clear trigger to trip is about as useful as an invitation to a party with no directions to get there.

I added two items to my cart, went through the checkout process, and got as far as typing in the coupon code.

No dice. The website denied the coupon because…the items were not eligible.

I went back to my email. Nowhere did it say the sale applied only to certain merchandise.

Guess what happened next? I got annoyed, then distracted, and ultimately, abandoned the website.

Be methodical with the entire process… from email to purchase

Start with your call to action

Decide what you want people to do and then make it clear and easy for them to do it.

Back in 1993, researchers in Palo Alto came up with the Information Foraging theory to describe how people search for what they want online.

In a nutshell, people behave like animals looking for food when surfing online – the only difference being humans tend to exert as little effort as possible hunting (for information.) We choose the path of least resistance and when rewarded with what we want will continue down the path.

So, providing a strong “information scent” – cues that give the visitor an expectation of a successful outcome by continuing down a path – can be the difference between action or inaction.

When Free Shipping Loses the Sale

In the case of the above email from the Washington Post, it’s absolutely clear where to click. The big blue button leaves out the guesswork.

Takeaway: Don’t rely on people to figure out what to do. Expecting your visitors to click on an image in your email that links to where you want them to go is not enough of a scent trail.

Make sure your customer understands the offer

Seems obvious but as the first example shows, it’s not.

Reading the copy on the email allowed me to make assumptions about the offer. Nowhere did the text say that only certain items would get free shipping.

This brings us back to another important element of information scent and foraging:

Always tell visitors what they will find when they click through to the next destination.

By sending me to the website’s home page, my assumption that anything on the site was fair game for free shipping was reinforced. If the copy had made it clear which items were available for free shipping then sent me to that category page, I could have quickly decided to continue or not.

Takeaway: Make promises you can keep. That applies to even the most mundane of things. Put aside time to think through your button or link copy. Then, tell people exactly where you’ll be taking them once they click.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

It’s easy to be in a hurry. You’ve got a marketing calendar and you need to stay on top of sending out your promotional emails.

The problem is that an ill conceived email can do more harm than none at all.

Shoppers already have a multitude of reasons to abandon their online shopping carts. From mere distraction to slow page loading times, it doesn’t take much to lose a sale online.

Don’t make a lack of trust in the process be one of them.

Design your email and copy to reflect exactly what your customers will be getting and where you’ll be sending them on your site. If you do that, you’ll be one step ahead of the pack.