Email Marketing: Bridging the Gap Between Marketer and Subscriber

Email marketing campaigns mean very different things for marketers than they do for subscribers. For the marketer, an email campaign is all about business: building a subscriber base, achieving high open and click-through rates, and ultimately driving conversions. On the other hand, email subscribers are mainly focused on what they get out of it in return for giving you their email address: discounts, information on relevant products, or even interesting articles on related subject matter.

One of the most critical tasks for any email marketer is recognizing this difference in perception and finding a way to bridge that gap and satisfy both parties.  Unfortunately, this is often one of the most overlooked parts of the process.  Even though the goal of email marketing is to drive conversions, it’s a mistake to focus on that to the point that you lose sight of why your customers signed up in the first place, what they expect from you, and what will keep them engaged.

Building an organic email subscriber list is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming process, and the last thing you want to do is let all that work go to waste with an ineffective, or even counterproductive, campaign.  With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most important elements of a successful email campaign, the common mistakes that marketers make when focusing on conversions, and how to give subscribers the value they’re looking for.

Subject Line:

What the marketer is thinking:

I want to grab their attention, so I’ll use a great sale as the basis for my subject line.

What the subscriber is thinking:

They seem knowledgeable about my industry, but all the emails I received from them just look like sales brochures.

The Takeaway

As many as 35% of people decide whether or not to open emails based solely on the subject line. In trying to increase open rates, many email marketers make the mistake of trying to write a subject line that grabs attention without necessarily demonstrating the value the email contains.

Subscribers want to know how you’re going to make things better for them, and the subject line is the first place you need to demonstrate that. For example, if you’re selling an application targeted at data-entry professionals, a subject line talking about how your application can help them enter more data in less time is likely to catch their eye, because that demonstrates value to them. A generic subject line about how your application is now available for 20% off may sound great to you but doesn’t tell the customer anything about what they’re getting, deal or not.

Sender Identity:

What the marketer is thinking:

We want to build our brand, so I’ll just make our company name the sender name on all of our outgoing emails.

What the subscriber is thinking:

I’m interested in what they’re selling, but the fact that they seem reluctant to use their names publicly makes me feel like they’re not customer-oriented.

The Takeaway

While it is important to build brand awareness, one of the things you want to avoid is being so brand focused that your emails come off like the automated product of a faceless machine with no human element.  Customers appreciate personal engagement, and that’s an easier thing to give to them if the emails are consistently coming from a human name instead of “Your Company, Inc.”

In general, you want your emails to use a single sender name attached to a real person at your organization, or if you work in multiple distinct niches, no more than one person per niche.  If your business attends trade shows, the employees you send to those trade shows are usually the best choice to be the public face of your email campaigns.  If you have someone writing a blog or a Q&A on your company website, they’re another great choice to help customers put a face with the name and increase engagement.

List Segmentation:

What the marketer is thinking:

Even though the product we’re featuring in this email campaign only applies to a segment of our customer base, I might as well just go ahead and send it out to everybody, because you never know where you’ll make a sale.

What the subscriber is thinking:

I signed up because they have some great deals for Windows users, so why is half the stuff they send me about Mac products? I wish I had the option to only receive emails about the stuff I need.

The Takeaway

There are many ways that you can segment your email list: demographics, location, the specific products they’re interested in, and so on. It’s vital that you do this, because you want to be able to deliver quality content to each segment that they will find relevant, and nothing that they won’t. Ideally, you should offer your subscribers a preferences function that will allow them to decide what they do and don’t want emails about.

Send Time:

What the marketer is thinking:

I’ve got an eye-catching subject line, great content, and a super call to action, so I’ll go ahead and send this out ASAP, because time is money!

What the subscriber is thinking:

I want to read these emails, but I keep getting them in the middle of my work day.  I’d really rather get them either first thing in the morning, or at the end of the work day when I have more time.

The Takeaway

One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll hear when it comes to running an email marketing campaign is to set a schedule and stick to it. There is truth to that, because if you have an engaged subscriber base who are expecting to receive a weekly email from you at the same time every Monday, you want to stick to that schedule wherever possible.

That said, you want to make sure those emails are scheduled to land in their inboxes at a time when they’re likely to actually read them. The specific time will depend on the situation: for example, if you are marketing to teachers, they shouldn’t be getting emails from you when they’re in the classroom, because there’s a good chance they won’t even see it for hours.  Test out different times and monitor the results to find out what the sweet spot is in your niche.

Email Frequency:

What the marketer is thinking:

Now that I’ve got this great list of email addresses, I’m going to send them emails as often as possible so that my brand name is the first one they think of when they think about my industry.

What the subscriber is thinking:

I signed up for this email list because I found the topic interesting and buy products in this niche, but now I’m getting bombarded with daily emails, and a lot of them aren’t even about things that interest me. I’m just going to unsubscribe and be done with it.

The Takeaway

One of the things you want to be really careful about is not overwhelming your subscribers with too many emails. You definitely don’t want to go too far in the other direction and send too few, either, but beyond any of the other things we’ve talked about on this list, receiving too many emails is the primary reason people will reach for the unsubscribe or spam buttons.

The best way to know if you’re sending too many emails out is by keeping an eye on the statistics associated with each campaign. If open and click-through rates drop compared to previous campaigns, or unsubscribe requests rise, those are usually good indicators that you’re overdoing it.

There’s a couple of ways you could move forward once you get to that point. One is the preferences function we talked about before, where you give the subscriber the ability to choose what topics they’re interested in, and how often they want to receive emails about those topics. Another thing you can do is segment your email list between high and low engagement subscribers and send more emails to subscribers who frequently open and convert, and less to subscribers with lower engagement metrics.

Reading Between the Lines

Understanding what the subscriber hopes to get out of your emails is key to keeping them engaged and improving the chances of conversions. If you follow the strategies outlined above, it’ll bring you much closer to bridging the gap between marketer and subscriber.