Saturday, October 07, 2006

#1 mistake of email subscription confirmations

You see this error in probably 95% of all email confirmations. One simple fix, that I'll describe, should boost your confirmation responses significantly, providing you with more subscribers.

Here's the situation: You click on a link that says something like "Sign Me Up for the [email newsletter / discussion list / update mailings]".

You are taken to a page to register for this service. You often are asked to fill out a form, providing them with your title, email address, web site URL, company name, business field, primary interests, other newsletters, and newsletter format preference (HTML or plain text). In some cases, you're given a link to download a free ebook or other item, their way of thanking you for subscribing.

Finally, you're told that an email message has been sent to your inbox, to confirm your subscription. This in keeping with anti-spam laws and the ethics of what Seth Godin calls "permission marketing". Fine. But guess what happens next?

You navigate to your email inbox. You see a message, with subject: "confirming your request to subscribe to Ron Lather's usability newsletter". But maybe you're too busy to mess with it right now. You postpone it, it's important, but not urgent. You go back to work, or turn off your computer and take the dog for a walk.

#1 Subscription Confirmation Email ERROR: By the time you do attend to this confirmation email message, there's only instructions about how to verify and activate your subscription to the service. No promotion, no explanation, no reminder of the benefits of this subscription. This is a major direct marketing error.

A "Welcome to..." followup mailing generally follows your confirming the subscription. In the welcome message, you'll be reminded of the company or individual's expertise, benefits of subscribing, and some features to look forward to. But why not do this also in the confirmation email? Why assume that subscribers are immediately attending to the confirmation email, right after signing up?

It's important to do every aspect of subscription marketing with professional finesse and sales savvy. Subscriptions are the new trend in digital offerings.

Media is moving away from advertising-based business models, and turning toward subscriptions as a new form of revenue to support the business. Podcast, video, movie downloads, investment news, music downloads, blog updates, technical insider tips, and more are coming to our cell phones, iPods, PCs, Macs, and WiFi laptops...via paid or free subscriptions.

So we need to understand the economics of subscription confirmation and verification practices, if we wish to maximize revenue, user satisfaction, and spontaneous word of mouth promotion by your subscribers.

SOLUTION: Sell them AGAIN. Don't assume your new subscriber is totally gung ho and excited about your service. Briefly, passionately, cleverly promote the benefits, past highlights, and coming attractions of the subscription, in the confirmation email.

Some subscribers may have forgotten these things, when they open your confirming email.

Be smart. Increase response. Boost revenue.

Make your email subscription confirmation email message work hard to sell or explain your service, its benefits, and even other products you offer. Now, the moment a subscriber responds to the confirmation, is an ideal time to promote both the service subscribed to and your whole line of products. Users are favorable to you at this moment, but you may still be relatively new and unknown to them.

Use this opportunity, the confirmation email, to put your best foot forward. How about describing the community formed around this service? How about mentioning some archives of relevance? How about urging the subscriber to tell friends, family, and co-workers about your service?

What great sales opportunities are you passing up, by sending a perfunctory, rudimentary, non-marketing smart confirmation email?

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