Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spikes, But Sorry, No Mulligans

So you’re bringing in names…. Hooray for today.

But what about tomorrow? Are they reading and buying... or unsubscribing at an alarming rate?

(You're tracking this I hope? Of course you are... you're tracking everything, right? Of course right! Good, moving on…)

Over the next few posts I'll be discussing retention, err… customer loyalty, ummm, what do YOU call it?

I see it as the concept of, no the philosophy of, keeping your readers happy and having them looking forward to your company's communications. Building a community… rather than just a business. It's the ability to keep readers on the file long enough to market to their lifetime value.

I’ll delve into how to keep your readers interested and better yet, keep them away from the unsubscribe button. Or worse, keep them away from the "Report As Spam" button.

But first… You must expect and get used to the fact that your list will erode over time. But worse than that... some will leave immediately after joining. AND leave complaining.

Understand that newly acquired names will unsub and complain that your publication is spam everyday... even though you're practicing "opt in" permission based marketing. It's just part of the business and you have no choice but to live with it.

A lists' retention rate will vary based on the source of acquisition. Here are some general retention rates per source of acquisition:

- Outside lists: 78%
- Co-Reg: 74%
- PPC: 71%
- Organic: 88%
So what do you do about this?

Nothing... just incorporate a percentage of loss into your budgeting.

Oh, and keep an eye on it. Certain sites and list may unsub at a higher rate than others... even in the same acquisition source. As such, these names might not be as valuable as you think. Worse off, the source might be full of spam traps and/or spam complainers.

Let me repeat that - someone who signed up is now calling you a spammer.

As I said these complaints are “par for the course” but… BUT when it spikes... that is a problem. Spikes can cause an ISP block or blacklisting. So you always need to make sure that you have above the line practices.

What will cause such an upward spike in spam complaints?

An upward spike probably means many of the people didn't know they were going to get your email. The readers probably signed up a day or two before the spike and reacted to receiving what they perceived as unsolicited email.

In other words, there may be a problem with the language you are using to sign people up or the original source of the names may be of low quality

Remember… Spam is all perception... there is no due process. No do-overs or Mulligans. It's often all about the first impression. And if the first impression to your new to file reader is that of a spammer... there is no changing it.

So keep an eye on your sign up pages AND all online and offline offers that include an email component. It all must be clear. Each name you collect must know what to expect from you... they must know that they are signing up for your email.

New subs need to know what they will get, when they will get it, and how often. If you don't tell them this or if they are the slightest bit confused, this will cause a spike in spam complaints.

One more thing... believe it or not, growing your list too fast can cause problems as well. Seriously… I get worried when someone brings in too many new names at once from any one source. When this happens even the normal ratio of complaints can cause that dreaded spike.

So don't rush. There are plenty of names and plenty of time to get them.

Report on the names as they come in AND as they go out. You might learn of a problem that's causing the exodus. You might end up with a better "control" landing page. You might end up bringing in twice as many names.

And if you only raised your retention rate - yeah, that would suck too! (sic)