Now that you have a solid plan for email success consisting of strategic goals and a testing program, you need to develop a strong subscriber base. This exercise is a marathon, not a sprint, and starting out on the right foot with your audience is critical to earning their trust and securing your relationship with them.
Consider this time just the beginning of what is ideally a long road of engagement. Remember that your audience elects to provide you with a precious commodity — their personal information — and they do so in exchange for a perceived benefit — the quality content of your email messages. Use the four steps outlined below to create a subscriber-acquisition plan that ensures you do not disappoint.
1. Subscribe them via a prominent and intuitive opt-in form. Include a single-field opt-in form in a prominent location on your homepage and in your navigation to make it easy to find. Don’t bury it at the bottom of the page or solely on a contact information page. Consider using an overlay (akin to the old “pop-up” function, but can be made Section 508-compliant) that presents an email sign-up opportunity to your site’s visitors.
There is an inverse relationship between the number of mandatory fields and the rate of form completion, so keep the form simple and to-the-point. Require the bare minimum necessary for audience segmentation and personalization. You can collect additional information over time — after having established trust — through a targeted call-to-action to manage subscriber preferences.
2. Confirm them to reduce errors and protect your sender reputation. Utilize your email service provider’s confirmed subscription (also known as a “closed-loop opt-in”) feature. With this process, once the subscriber’s information is submitted, a confirmation email is sent to validate that a person claiming to possess a particular email address actually does so.
While this additional step may seem like an unnecessary hurdle, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks by ensuring subscribers 1) have entered the correct email address into the opt-in form without any typos and 2) actually want to receive your messages (in the event they were subscribed by a third party). Although not a legal requirement under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (which we will cover later in this blog series), anti-spam researchers deem this the minimum undertaking necessary to ensure the fidelity of your subscriber contact sources and protect your sender reputation.
3. Welcome them to immediately set expectations. Your confirmation webpage and a welcome email immediately deployed upon form submission should outline the benefits subscribers will receive as the result of providing their contact information. Be specific about the type and subject of content they can expect as well as the frequency of messages (e.g., monthly, weekly, daily, as needed).
4. Connect them with additional relevant resources. Your first interactions with your subscribers present a prime opportunity to generate excitement and mount anticipation for what is to follow. As with any successful long-term relationship, you cannot make empty promises; you must plan ahead and deliver on those commitments. Start living up to your promises right away by pointing new subscribers to a select set of valuable content on your site that matches their interests. If your email service provider offers the option to automatically populate this content in your welcome email based on their selected preferences, take advantage of this feature. Take care not to overwhelm your first message with a litany of information, but rather consider utilizing a short welcome series to purposefully “drip” additional applicable material over the course of several messages.
By not jumping the gun and instead taking the time to earn an informed and eager subscriber base, you set the pace for a victorious relationship of audience connection. How do you plan to create your winning subscriber base? Please share in the comments below.
Amber V Hammond is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.