Do Your Email Messages Inspire Trust?

Email industry experts constantly preach about improving relevance, designing emails for better rendering, minimizing list churn and other topics, but mainly as ends in themselves. What's also important is that when deploying the various best practices,  they also contribute to making your email marketing program more trustworthy to subscribers.

I believe trust in email will become much more crucial in these days of financial insecurity and a slowed economy. Email users might well become much pickier about whom they let into their email inner circle. Email senders that convey a strong sense of trust and whose messages reinforce this trust can expect to achieve higher opt-in, retention and conversion rates than those marketers that don't instill confidence.

I was reminded of this trust issue while reviewing some data from a new survey measuring attitudes toward and actions taken on spam, commissioned by my employer, Silverpop. Responses to three questions in particular emphasize what happens when people do not trust email senders:

1. Quantifying the Expanded Spam Definition. Respondents were asked what "spam" meant to them. Over half said it meant email they didn't sign up for, while 40% said it was any email they didn't want to get, and 35% said it was email from any commercial entity, presumably even companies whose brands they trust.

2. How Users Try to Reduce Spam. More than three-quarters of respondents said they limit the number of emails they subscribe to, even from companies they trust, in order not to get more spam.

3. Why They Hit the 'Report Spam' Button. Three in 10 respondents said they hit the spam button because they didn't trust the unsubscribe link in the message.

How to Make Emails More Trustworthy

You have at least five touchpoints in your email program where you can build or lose trust (if I missed any, please reply in the comments section below):



·    Opt-in process: You explain exactly what subscribers will receive and how often, include a link to a sample email and succinctly convey the value of your email program. You confirm their subscriber data and the newsletters or promotions they signed up for and deliver information on how to manage their subscriptions, contact you and use your Web site in a follow-up welcome message.

·    Data privacy: You explain how you will use subscribers' personal data in an easy-to-understand statement at opt-in, in your welcome message and in each email, along with a link to your full privacy policy.

·    Transaction behavior: Your emails clearly describe and price products; you spell out purchasing and shipping terms; you provide a direct link to customer support. For non-purchase emails, you state what customers can expect from subscribing or your content, etc. and what you will do with any personal data you collect.

·    Relevance: You allow subscribers to customize their subscriptions regarding content, format and frequency, and you use this information to personalize the messages you send to them.

·    Unsubscribe process: Your unsubscribe link and directions are clearly labeled in each email, and your process is quick, clear and effective immediately (when possible).

What Your Customers Are Asking Themselves

Look at your email program from opt-in to unsubscribe, and see how well you could answer these questions if you were a potential or current subscriber:

1. Why would I want to give this company my email address?

2. Do I trust that this company will provide me with significant value in exchange for my personal information?

3. If I opt in, will my address be shared with other divisions or companies?

4. Will this company send emails of interest to me or will it repeatedly send me generic offers or content?

5. Will they deliver the content interests, format and frequency I request?

6. If I click the unsubscribe link, will I stop receiving emails from them immediately?

7. If I buy something from the company's email message, will it automatically opt me in to all of its other email programs?

Why Trust is Key to Your Email Program

When you design your email program with reliable information and processes to successfully address concerns about trust, you answer these implied questions and increase the likelihood that people will choose to begin an email relationship with your company over competitors.

Consumers with a growing concern about the future of the economy and their own pocketbooks will increasingly choose to do business with companies they trust and may be less likely to risk their personal data and inbox space on unknown entities or those for whom trust is questionable. Your reward for establishing and delivering on a foundation of trust is more conversions, reduced turnover and a more satisfying long-term relationship with your customers.

Until next time, take it up a notch!
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