Archive for the ‘Loyalty’ category

7 Tips to Improve Your Unsubscribe Process

October 14, 2011

by Chel Wolverton, WhatCounts

Too often in email marketing the unsubscribe process is overlooked.  Marketers have the attitude of, “They’re leaving anyway; why does it matter if the process is a good one?”  This is a huge missed opportunity because the unsubscribe process can actually be used to winback your subscribers.  Read on for seven tips on how to improve your unsubscribe process, and feel free to comment below if you have any tips of your own!

Tip #1: Be Immediate!

While the CAN-SPAM Act says that marketers have 10 days to remove an opt-out from their list, best practice is to implement an immediate removal.  This will help to keep your recently-departed subscribers happy, and will cut down on complaints.

For example: If you opted out from a company’s emails, and then received another email from them the next day, wouldn’t that make you irate?  You’d probably think that your opt-out request wasn’t received, or was ignored, and you’d end up hitting the “Mark as Spam” button, thus registering a complaint.

Remember the typical subscriber isn’t as email savvy as we may think they are, so they won’t necessarily know that you have a 10-day leeway to remove them from your list.  Nor will they care – they’ll expect to be removed immediately!

Respect and honor your subscriber’s wishes, and make sure their opt-out requests are taken care of and acted upon immediately.  If you’re using an email service provider (ESP) to help you with your email campaigns, you should be able to take advantage of their immediate, maybe even “one-click”, opt-out mechanism.

Tip #2: Don’t Hide the Unsubscribe

We are a big fan of making the opt-out link within your emails very easy to find.  In fact, we often encourage clients to “welcome the unsubscribe”.  After all, an opt-out is much better for your reputation than a complaint.

These days, subscribers have become accustomed to seeing and using the “Mark As Spam” button within their email client.  This button feels secure to them, as they trust that by using it they’ll no longer receive emails from your company again.  The button is also easy to find.  The drawback for email marketers is that every click of this button is registered as a complaint for your company and that ultimately hurts your sending reputation.

In comparison, opt-outs do not hurt your reputation, but the option is often hard to find.  The opt-out link in most emails is in super tiny font at the bottom of the email.  Instead of discouraging subscribers from opting out by trying to hide the link from them, try highlighting it in red or moving it to the top of your email.

We have had few clients who were seeing high complaint rates try this, and the simple act of moving their opt-out link to the pre-header area of their email significantly cut down on their complaint rates.

Tip #3: Offer Opt-Down or Pause Options

Have you ever received too many emails from a sender and wanted to cut down on the number of emails you received, but you didn’t want to opt-out completely?  We all have cluttered inboxes.  Help your subscribers to manage theirs by offering an opt-down option on your opt-out page.

With this option, subscribers would have the ability to receive less frequent mailings from you instead of opting out completely.  For example, offer a quarterly “best of” newsletter instead of a monthly one.  Letting your subscribers choose what works for them will cut down on your unsubscribe rate and will enhance the subscriber experience.

Consider the idea of offering a pause option on the opt-out page.  DailyCandy does a great job of this; check out their opt-out page.  When you go on vacation, you can pause your DailyCandy emails and set them to start back up again when you return.  This helps to better manage a cluttered inbox, and also allows you to stay subscribed.

Tip #4: Show Subscribers What Else You Have to Offer

Opt-outs often occur when subscribers are just no longer interested in the email content.  If you have other types of emails that you send to subscribers, make sure these are highlighted on your opt-out page.

For example: Take another look at the DailyCandy opt-out page.  You’ll see they have a preference center at the bottom of their opt-out page that lists all of their subscription types.  So, if you were, say, moving from San Francisco and want to start receiving the Dallas emails instead, you could make that change instead of having to opt-out completely.

Showing your subscribers what else you have to offer will decrease your opt-out rate and increase your subscriber retention rate.  Again, it’s all about letting the subscriber choose what works best for them!

Tip #5: Reveal a Little Personality

The typical opt-out process is boring.  You click on a link in the email, you’re brought to a page, confirm your opt-out, and that’s it.  With this type of process, the subscriber will feel no remorse at all about opting out.  Try shaking things up a bit by adding some personality to your opt-out process.

That could be with a personalized opt-out page or with a fun twist.  Take Groupon for example.  When you opt-out from their list, you’re immediately removed, but also introduced to “Derrick”, the guy who thought you’d enjoy receiving the daily Groupon email and who you can now punish. Check out the full video here; it’s pretty funny, and maybe even funny enough to make people change their minds about their opt-out.

Tip #6: Survey your Unsubscribes

Wouldn’t it be great to know why people opt-out from your emails?  Ask them!  Take our client for example.  On their opt-out page, they provide a drop-down menu for people to answer why they are opting out.  The options are:  Never Opted into List, Too Frequent Communication, Not Interested in Material, and Other.  The subscriber can then elaborate on their decision to opt-out in the comment box provided.

This information is not required, but we actually see a lot of people take advantage of this option, and the data can provide some great insight as to how can improve their email program.

Tip #7: Periodically Test it Yourself

Finally, don’t forget to go through the opt-out process yourself every so often to make sure all is working correctly.  We typically recommend doing this at least once a quarter and definitely before any high email volume times of year (for example: the holiday season).

Go through the entire process to (1) ensure the opt-out link is easy to find within your email, (2) make sure the email link is working and takes you to the correct page, and (3) the opt-out request is processed within an appropriate amount of time (see tip #1).  Checking this process periodically will ensure you are staying CAN-SPAM compliant, and also giving your subscribers, even those on their way out, a good experience from your emails.

Remember: even subscribers who have opted out are still future re-subscribers and maybe even customers.  Treat them as valued subscribers even during the unsubscribe process, and show them that you really care about their preferences.  It may just help to win them over again!


Posting Your Promises

September 7, 2011

by Mike Wittenstein*, Customer Experience Designer | Customer Experience Strategist | Experience Design Firm

Brands that post their promises usually keep them. Their customers hold them to it.

lululemon is a specialty retailer of apparel and equipment for ‘sweaty pursuits’ (think yoga, dance, etc.). The brand depends on its employees to connect with their customers.

The feeling when you walk into the store (I visited the Mall of America location for Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit) is calm and relaxing, organized and vivacious. From the well-arranged merchandise to the brightly colored accents, feng shui design touches, and rolling racks that allow for free yoga classes on Saturday mornings; this store is 100% on brand.

One of the things I liked best was that the company prominently posted its manifesto on-line and its employees’ promises (to themselves) throughout the store.

When people’s work becomes a way to achieve what they’re passionate about, great things can happen–like a great customer experience. When you connect with people on their ‘Why?’ (what’s important and what drives them) instead of only on their ‘What?’ (what you want to sell them), there’s a natural attraction customers feel and an easier connection with employees.

Having a great experience usually means your customers are happy. When your customers are happy, your shareholders get happy too. How do you think lululemon’s shareholders feel about the company’s sales per square foot number coming in at US $1,731, just behind Coach and Tiffany? See the listing here.

Here’s lululemon’s manifesto:

As a direct marketer, you can see what your client sometimes can’t. You are the one who imagines a new campaign from start to finish. Help your clients get the most out of their campaigns by encouraging them to make authentic promises that matter to customers. Next, give them every opportunity to keep those promises—by carefully checking copy, by prototyping offer redemptions, sign-ups, and other processes, and by going to their stores or places of business (offer in hand) to see if one channel knows what the other one is doing!

Direct marketing is the front door to a great experience!

*Mike Wittenstein is a 20+ year marketing veteran with hundreds of assignments under his belt. He knows how to design experiences that win customers’ hearts on the front lines—and earn shareholder approval on the bottom line at the same time.

As a customer experience designer at Storyminers, Mike shops each business as a customer and works in it as an employee. Then, he helps his retail, healthcare, hospitality, and other service clients design the kind of experience their customers will appreciate and rave about.

Mike is the former Global Services e-Visionary at IBM and co-founder of GALILEO, one of the country’s first interactive agencies. He is an honors graduate of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the University of Florida. He lives in Atlanta, speaks four languages, and travels globally as a speaker, facilitator, designer, and consultant.

Mike Wittenstein

Managing Principal




How Banks are Capitalizing on Social Media

May 9, 2011

by Rick Ellis, AIS Media’s Director of Channel Partner Development

            While the banking industry today is still winding through recovery, many local banks, regional institutions and credit unions have positioned themselves to fare better in the market than their “too-big-to-fail” competitors. Two contributing factors include; a strong public backlash against “Big Banks” which has produced support for local institutions perceived by customers to be more sensitive to the needs of their community and secondly; a strong synergy that community-led banks are developing with emerging social media

Social media marketing has become a goldmine for tapping into a growing audience of more than 600 million potential customers on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others. These users share their opinions about products or services with others, increasing the popularity of a brand and increasing the number of loyal visitors to a company website. It also gives marketers the ability to be part of the online conversations on an individualized basis. Social media provides explosive viral marketing potential and positively impacts the ever-important website search engine rankings.  Financial institutions have learned social is a way to become more transparent to customers, build trust, retain customers, increase referrals, develop relationships and provide additional services and products.

Community banks and credit unions, by their very business model are very social in nature.  Smaller, locally-focused, community-driven banks have built their businesses around striving to understand their local customers’ needs and delivering high-quality, relationship-based, individualized services. They strive to engage their customers and in turn leverage those relationships to build loyalty and advocacy.

Brett King, Author of “Banking 2.0” shared with the Huffington Post his belief that “the very sense of community that binds the individuals who support such financial institutions is also a core element in the success of social media.”  It is his belief that community-led institutions are enjoying success by building the same sense of community online as they do in the real world.

In a recent survey of 89,000 North American banking customers conducted by Bain & Company, a global business consulting firm, it was reported that “organic growth rooted in strong customer relationships represents the best path forward for retail banks.”  Interestingly, the report demonstrated since 2009 loyalty scores for community banks and credit unions has topped those of national branch network banks by a wide margin.

The key in the banking industry is to reach consumers where they are actively spending their time; 75% of the population is researching, shopping and socializing online and this number keeps growing. Consumers spend as much time today with social media channels as they do watching television channels. They are in Facebook, participating in blogs and chatter, following twitter and other forums. Over 200 million users now access Facebook from their mobile phones.  Opinions, both positive and negative are being shared online. Recent studies show peer recommendations influence decisions 78% of the time versus 14% from traditional advertising.  With marketing budgets that pale in comparison to the competition’s, smaller banking firms are using social media to more effectively target key customers.

For bankers, reaching out, communicating and listening to customers to engage them as advocates creates satisfied customers and those satisfied customers become word-of-mouth advocates.  They remain longer with their banks than those who are not.  Equally important, they also buy more products, refer more new customers and cost less to serve. Product sales such as investments and wealth management have become increasingly profitable for banks.

            American Banker says “social media is the new frontier of relationship management” and encourages financial institutions to “get in the game.” Here are a dozen ways financial institutions are using social media today:

  • Cost savings
  • Customer retention
  • Customer service
  • Ability to maintain a dialogue with consumers
  • Product and services research
  • Product cross-sell and promotion
  • Transparency and trust building
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Reaching highly targeted consumers
  • News and events
  • Community building
  • Reputation management, risk mitigation and damage control

According to the ABA Banking Journal, in an article entitled “Social Media to the Rescue? Facebook versus the Robocaller”, damage control found an unlikely supporter from United Bank of Atmore, in Atmore, Alabama. The bank had a policy of blocking Facebook access on employees’ computers. However, following a rash of scam attempts from robocallers with pre-recorded messages trying to lure unsuspecting customers into sharing their personal information, management turned to employees’ personal Facebook pages to warn customers.  The response was immediate and dramatic from bank customers. Ironically, the bank immediately began developing a social media marketing program of its own.

Many banks and credit unions have cautiously approached adapting social media strategies. Concerns have centered primarily on data security and privacy as well as regulation uncertainty.  In the fall of 2010, the SEC and FINRA released social media guidelines that spell out the rules for social media in terms of promotion and advertising, supervision, monitoring and record keeping.  However, in joining the new frontier of relationship management, banks must have proper planning, execution, support, and monitoring in place.  Developing a social media marketing strategy should not be a “try this at home” project or dumped on the IT department.  It requires specific strategy, development, technology, analytics and on-going management.  An experienced and reputable social media agency that is on top of the changing financial landscape should be an absolute minimum requirement to any bank or credit union seeking to direct and contribute to the online conversations.

But what does a properly executed social media strategy mean to the bottom line? Bain and Company found that the banks that are loyalty leaders enjoy a growth rate that is 10% higher and a cost of funds that is 80 basis points lower than banks that focus primarily on being price leaders.  It’s not a matter of ‘if a bank will adopt social media but when’; and today agile local banks, regional institutions and credit unions are leading the charge into social media adaption.

Rick Ellis has an MBA in e-Business and is AIS Media’s Director of Channel Partner Development. AIS Media is an award winning Atlanta-based digital and social media engagement agency. AIS Media’s clients include leading companies, governments and Fortune 500 corporations.

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