Customer email can be a valuable asset, but there are strict rules for getting it right.
LinkedIn said it themselves when announcing a much-needed change of pace to its email updates: “Less is more!” In a blog post, LinkedIn has at long last promised “less frequent and more relevant” email updates to users, starting by removing four out of every ten emails they’ve been sending out previously.
Complaints about too many emails have halved following the change, said the company, something which arguably suggests there are still too many emails coming from the professional social network. But it’s a start. As things stood previously, LinkedIn was so trigger happy with its emails it had become a joke, not just from complaining users but also from late night talk show hosts.
Like LinkedIn, most companies will have a list of customers’ email addresses, and this can be a major asset. When done right, email can be one of the most personal means of communicating with customers. When done wrong, however, it can be a source of significant irritation.
So what are the rules for good email update etiquette?
Less is more
Too many emails mean people will stop taking notice when they come through, and possibly just delete them. Fewer emails mean people stop to take notice when something pops up, increasing the chance of it being opened.
One way to reduce the number of emails is to aggregate updates into a single email per day or week. So instead of pinging out an email every single time something happens, group it up and send it out at more appropriate intervals.
People have different priorities, so provide them with choice. Do they want instant notifications or daily updates? Do they want to know if someone messaged them but not if someone views their profile? Do they want corporate news updates? Push these choices so it’s an active decision during registration – sneaking people onto a mailing list they don’t want to be on only causes irritation. Also, make these options easy to find later if someone changes their mind.
Provide an easy opt-out
Unless it’s a receipt, every single email to a user or a customer should have a link at the bottom that says “unsubscribe”. This link should take the customer to another screen that confirms the action, and that’s it. There’s nothing more annoying when trying to clean up your inbox than having an “unsubscription confirmed” email coming through. Actually, there’s one thing that’s more annoying, and that’s being made to log in to a company website before you can unsubscribe. This adds insult to injury and means the customer may well resort to the ultimate snub: abandoning the customer relationship altogether with a quick click of the button that reads “mark as spam”.
In fairness, LinkedIn has always had an “unsubscribe” button at the end of its emails and a thorough level of choice when it comes to email communication under its “settings” category. But even now, LinkedIn has five main email notification categories, each containing two to seven sub-categories. Even after the reductions LinkedIn has announced, that’s still far too much potential email, especially considering how research proves that you can easily go overboard:
“Frequency and engagement are negatively correlated – meaning as you send more frequently, people tend to engage with each campaign less,” John Foreman, head of data sciences at email specialist MailChimp, wrote on the company blog. “I’d highly recommend ignoring calls to ‘send send send’, and find a comfortable middle ground that feels balanced between individual campaign engagement and overall periodic engagement.”.
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