They say that first impressions are the most lasting. Then why do so many companies make such a lousy first impression when it comes to their e-mail strategy?

Last week I did an experiment. I tried to opt-in to receive e-mails from 246 different brands in the apparel and accessories market sector. All of the brands were large brands listed in the Brandweek Directory. Here are the results:

Out of the 246 brands attempted, I was able to sign up for unique e-mails from 71 brands. Some of this was due to that fact that multiple brands listed in Brandweek Directory all resolved to the same parent company's URL and in many cases they only had one e-mail sign-up for the entire line of products. The majority however simply did not offer an e-mail newsletter sign-up on their site.

Out of the 71 brands that did offer an e-mail sign-up, after seven days I've only received e-mails from 22 brands. Out of those, only two brands offered a double opt-in.

So, to summarize: less than 30 percent of all brands in this category offered any type of e-mail sign-up. Less than 30 percent of all who offered e-mail actually responded with a welcome letter on signing up. Less than 10 percent of those who sent a welcome letter provided a double opt-in. Or to put it another way: only 10 percent of all the brands examined provided an e-mail list with a welcome letter attached to sign-up. Less than 1 percent of all brands provided a double opt-in e-mail program.



Marketers like to say that every interaction you have with the brand should help cement that brand's positioning with the consumer. Like many ideas, this seems to be promoted more in theory than in practice.

Nearly all of the e-mail welcome letters did nothing to advance the brand or further cement a relationship with the customer who has just taken the bold step of saying: I want you to communicate with me. I have a relationship with your brand.

Typical was this e-mail:

"Thank you for registering with (brand name)! Your email address: (email address) The next time you visit www.(brandname).com, simply click on "log in" to use your registered features. "

What does this e-mail tell me about the brand I just signed up to receive updates on? What does it tell me about the relationship this brand wants to establish with me?

Here is a perfect opportunity wasted. I have the opportunity to communicate one-on-one with a customer and I'm pretty much guaranteed they are going to read it since they just left my site. And how do I take advantage of this direct contact? I do nothing. I blow the opportunity. I waste a great brand-building moment.

That welcome letter is incredibly important, and yet no one takes advantage of it. I even received a welcome letter from a company who was promoting the fact that they could help my business with their technological know-how. The link to their site in the welcome letter had the slashes in http:// in backwards so the link wouldn't work. Every e-mail welcome letter they send out gives the message that they do sloppy work.

In brand building it is the small things that eventually make the difference. Anyone can spend $2.4 million dollars on a Super Bowl Ad. It takes a great company to spend a few minutes getting their welcome letter right.

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