Audience Development: 6 Email Relationship Red Flags

Email is an extremely intimate form of communication. It’s a 1-to-1 personal, direct link to your audience. Each message you send goes directly to a person’s private inbox, an inbox that’s unique to each individual. Think about it, the email inbox is guarded by top secret passwords behind locked devices. Not to mention the millions of combinations that users can choose from when organizing their inbox.

So when a customer or prospect signs up for your email list it means they trust you. You have been given the master key that opens a direct, uninterrupted channel of communication. And your strategy for sending email campaigns works, temporarily, until you deploy another email campaign only to realize the locks have been changed! You are no longer reaching the same number of users due to spam complaints and unsubscribes. What can you do about it? Well, it’s time that someone tells you that you have been found guilty of one or more of these six email relationship red flags.

1. You only care about your preferences. Segmenting your list obviously doesn’t concern you. Red flag! I use a pet sitting service, and I once received an email asking if I needed a cat sitter ahead of an upcoming holiday weekend. It seems fine, they are being thoughtful before the holiday weekend, except for one thing. I DON’T HAVE A CAT! I’m a dog owner and I’ve only ever used their services for dog sitting and to find more information on how I can care for my beloved canine. Because this company preferred to send a kitty mailing, they completely ignored my preferences and behaviors. It’s this type of selfishness that causes many people to leave email relationships.

How to Wave the White Flag: Establish a preference center early on to find out what types of emails your audience wants to receive and how often. From there, you will have basic information like location/time zone, gender, content preferences, etc. to begin segmenting your audience. If you didn’t establish user preferences at the beginning of the relationship, you can use a survey to find out what your subscribers desire from your emails. Once you segment your lists, you can use them to send targeted mailings people will want to read, allowing you to more effectively nurture your audience.

2. You’re always selling something. With any relationship, being sold something all the time is a red flag. Ever tried just being you? Ever heard of the 80/20 rule? No matter your specialty, you can find ways to be relatable without selling.

How to Wave the White Flag: Successful audience development means building the relationships between you and your readers, not making the hard sell immediately. Use your emails to tell the story of who you really are. What is your brand’s mission, and how do your emails align with your mission? Show your readers the human element of your brand and you’ll have more credibility instantly. Share a behind-the-scenes look at an upcoming project, a funny story, or feature employees. Other ideas are to announce upcoming events, showcase press coverage, or share discount codes and contests/sweepstakes.

A solid example is how Simple turned a boring compliance email into their most popular email. This email moved beyond the selling, while ensuring their users could easily understand their privacy policy updates along with financial regulations and guidelines. Then they wrote a blog about it.

3. You ignore the principle of reciprocity. It’s a red flag if you always want something without giving something in return. You might think investing in email is a solid ‘give’ to your customer base, but if the customer doesn’t feel like they are getting anything valuable, they have every right to walk away. Email relationships should provide value to both the sender and the receiver. Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by person or organization to another. And when what you offer is not worth the time and effort it takes me to reach inbox zero then…|*unsubscribe*|.

How to Wave the White Flag: Here’s an example: because I’m a valued email subscriber (who gave you the key to my private communication channel), shouldn’t I know about product/feature updates before the general public? YES! If you’re subscribed to the PostUp email newsletter, then you’ll notice that we made a special announcement about a super-secret project we’re working on.

4. Everything in your template is broken. And because of this your emails are ugly. Red flag.

How to Wave the White Flag: To make ‘The Ugly Duckling’ into a beautiful swan, the two terms you need to know are render testing and fluid hybrid design. For visually appealing emails that everyone can see across all devices, fluid hybrid email design is the way to go. But you’ll need to see how your emails render across over 30 different email clients and devices prior to deploying your campaign. Check out the most used email clients and devices in this report from Litmus Labs – the Email Client Market Share.

Free Responsive Email Template Download

5. Your signup form is hard to find. AKA you play hard to get. It’s not attractive; it’s just holding you back. Red flag.

How to Wave the White Flag: You can’t develop your audience if they’re not there with you in the first place. The simplest way to get more readers engaged with your email program is to make your email list easy to join. By capturing their email address, you establish a direct line of immediate communication that doesn’t rely on social media algorithms or passing traffic; provided your inbox placement rate is solid, you know they’ll get your emails. Here are some options for email capture:

  • Include a link to your email signup page in social media biographies and Facebook pages
  • Use co-registration to gather new subscribers
  • Try using a lightbox or modal on your website

You increase your potential for readers when it’s easy to find your signup form. Check out our video Practical Tips to Develop Your Audience for more info on growing a relationship with your audience.

6. You haven’t set a schedule for contact. Red flag – you may be flaky. Your newsletter shouldn’t be so infrequent that your readers think it’s spam when you do finally hit send.

How to Wave the White Flag: Begin by creating an editorial calendar that isn’t overwhelming for your organization. Maybe you don’t have enough content for a weekly newsletter – we’re not faulting you there, content marketing is time-consuming and tricky – but you should plan to schedule your newsletters, even if it’s monthly or quarterly.

When your reader signed up to join your email list, you should have let them know beforehand what kind of email sending schedule they should expect. Alternately, if you’re using a preference center, you should be sending emails according to the schedule they have selected for themselves. Sticking to the schedule will let users know you are serious about the relationship. Consistency is a solid relationship trait, even for email marketers.

Always remember your subscribers are giving you their precious time and inbox space. Keep thinking of them first, and you’ll soon master this relationship!

Bonus: You haven’t sought out expert help for your email strategy? What are you waiting for? Schedule your free 30 minute email strategy session! Contact us today. Need to learn more about our services first? Be our guest.

Request your List Growth Strategy session now!