The answer nearly always comes back to trust.
In the email marketing industry, we preach about the importance of designing for images on and off. We talk about creating compelling subject lines and straightforward calls to action. We advise marketers to include a preheader, to make the email visually appealing, to add Share With Your Network (SWYN) functionality. Don't get me wrong -- this is all important. In fact, I am a huge advocate for considering all of the above (and more) when thinking about your email marketing campaigns.
However, it all starts with trust. Without trust, you have (almost) nothing.
My wife opens emails from individuals and companies that she trusts. She clicks on links and buys stuff from those she trusts. Now - this is not to say that all of the other "best practice" advice we give to clients is not valid. In fact, in many ways it can be the difference between a decent email marketing strategy and a killer one; however, if your subscribers don't trust you -- for whatever reason -- "best practices" don't really matter. On the flip side, if you've earned that trust, experimentation with other elements of your email marketing campaigns can have huge positive implications.
My colleague and fellow Email Insider Loren McDonald touched on the issue of trust in "Does the Subject Line Matter Anymore?" Loren said, "If you have a powerful, recognized and trusted brand, coupled with the right ‘from' name, then your subject lines theoretically shouldn't matter as much as that of a lesser-known brand or poorly executed ‘from' name." Ad Age's Brian Clark recently wrote about the "Three Key Elements of Irresistible Subject Lines," noting, "Even before then, your recipient needs to know at a glance that you're a trusted source." Clarkcontinued, "But if you do gain that initial trust, and more importantly, confirm and grow it, you can write pretty lame subject lines and people will still read your messages." In a comment back to me, Clark added, "You have to earn attention, authority, and trust before you can write any ol' subject line or blog title you like and still have people invest attention with you. The good news is, it's not that hard to do if you really focus on consistently delivering value to your readers first and foremost."
So how can you earn that much-coveted trust? Below are three suggestions:
1. Provide value: Think from the subscriber's perspective. What's in it for them? Why should they open/click/convert on that last email you sent?
2. Deliver on your promise: If you tell subscribers that you are sending emails weekly that include specials, stick to that content and frequency.
3. Meet or exceed expectations: I'm not just talking about email marketing here. Think about face to face (in store, at event), on the phone, in social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc), and on your website. Wow your subscribers.
At the end of the day, email marketing is all about trust. Start by earning trust, and then start folding in other elements of your email strategy.
Which email marketers do you trust? What have they done to earn your trust?