It's All About Me

Dear Email Diva: We are a B2B ecommerce site that requires our customers to register with us in order to see pricing. We inform our customers that by registering they will receive emails from us regarding information and promotions.

With buyers we seem to be stuck around 27-29% on open rates, but have increased our click-through rates to sometimes as high as 47%. On non-buyers, our open rates seem to hover around 14%, with click-through rates as high as 35%. We went from showing large images to having the banner below and providing more information with more links. We've also tried incorporating names of the customers into the email. I've also tried separating our lists into type of customers. I believe if we can push the bar higher with open/click-through, we will increase our sales volume.

Andrea Lightman,

Dear Andrea,

The key to increasing open and click-through rates is providing content of value to your customers. You are looking for tactical solutions, but the problem is with your approach. As a customer, I only care about ME -- What's In It For ME (WIIFM)? In reviewing your sign-up process and welcome emails, there is abundant evidence of an US approach -- Let me tell you all about US.



While I am sure that you provide good value and customer service, it doesn't come through.

When potential customers register on your site, they are not given the option to receive email; they are signed up automatically. Due to the invasive nature of email and the abundance of spam, you want to be welcome in the inbox. In order to achieve this, you want recipients to raise their hand and request email, not get stuck with it in order to access site content.

On the other hand, you are losing people who may want to get offers and information but are not ready to go through your lengthy registration process. The 1-2 punch, which I described in a previous article, allows you to stay in touch with potential customers until they are ready to buy.

After registration, you offer customers 15% off their first order. This is your most compelling value proposition from the customer's viewpoint, and should be promoted throughout the site as an incentive to opt-in.

You ask for interest in eight product categories, but only allow the registrant to rate five of them. If I don't indicate an interest, does that mean I don't have any interest in that category, or less interest than the other five? You don't indicate that you send email based on these product categories, which would be an easy way to cater to customer preferences.

Your Welcome/Confirmation Email had abundant examples of the US approach. The second sentence, "We are the only wholesale buying site focused on increasing (store name's) profits," contains an error: it actually says, "(store name)" rather than the name I supplied at registration. A few sentences down, you tell me to, "Log on and start buying." While we all want customers to buy, the customer needs to be persuaded, not told. The most compelling reason to do so, the 15%-off offer, is not even mentioned.

Next you tell me about the categories of products I may be interested in, but one of them was not in the top five categories I chose when registering. If I just told you what I'm interested in, why are you offering these one-size-fits-all options?

You mention the marketing tips, supplier stories and trade show intelligence offered on your site, but describe your mandatory emails this way: "Every month we create emails recommending best selling items for the season ahead." Does this mean you don't include the other content as well? If so, you are missing a big opportunity to develop relationships rather than sell, sell, sell. While that's the ultimate goal, combining your sales message with other information of interest to the customer will help develop partnerships, and keep them opening, reading and clicking on your emails.

The copy about your email program is the worst example of the US approach: Your email provider is very strict about emails like those from FarCountries. We pay to have our emails delivered to you and we comply with all the anti-spam rules. But, we lose some people from our lists. So here is what you need to do... open your emails from us regularly because if we can't deliver our emails to you we have to take you off our mailing list.

First, it is not "your" (the customer's) email provider but FarCountries' email provider. Do you really want to complain about spending money on email that the customer never requested? And just as you shouldn't decide that customers want to opt-in, you shouldn't decide when they want to opt-out. The customer needs to be in control.

When writing your customer communication, highlight every place you have a sentence with "us" or "we" in it. Then consider how you can change that into a "you" statement. And not a statement that tells the customer what to do, but one that tells customers why they should care: WIIFM.

How are you using your data to understand your customers? You mention a series aimed at a customer segment that didn't work, but are you looking at how different segments respond and what they click on? Are you tracking conversions as well as clicks? Are you using stated preferences as well as purchase behavior, both by category and supplier, to tailor emails to customer interests? Are you testing offers: free shipping, gift with purchase, etc.?

Change your approach to cater to ME, the customer, and use data to test and measure your success. I will open and click on email that provides information and offers I value, from companies that are tuned in to MY behavior and preferences.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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