Email List Cleaning Gets Dirty

Patti RennerI love email. I guess you might say that I’m an email hoarder. I study them. I save the good ones as a “swipe file” to refer to for campaign inspiration. And sometimes I actually just enjoy keeping in touch with my favorite brands.
However, I’m seeing a disturbing trend. In the past few of weeks, I’ve received several emails that were, well… rude. It’s January and I’m assuming some email marketers have it on their list of resolutions to clean up their send lists and better engage their audiences. But in an attempt to engage and reconfirm their non-openers, some brands are taking a confrontational approach to their list hygiene. It may be working for them, but at what expense?

For example, one major hotel chain really got annoying. Their subject line reads “Last call from ________________”. (I’m withholding their brand name out of courtesy.) Last call? Seems urgent. When you get a “Last call” from a hotel, it makes you feel a twinge of panic. I felt as if I had done something wrong or missed a deadline that could impact a future reservation. All I really did was neglected their earlier emails. They got my open that time, but at what cost?

The thing that bothers me the most was the fact that I opted in to their emails. I actually travel quite a bit so I signed up for their rewards program. They should know that I want their emails. Even if I don’t open them consistently, I can see them in my preview pane. Plus, I like to keep them to refer to when planning a trip.

This is an example of a data fail on their part. Their stay data should indicate that I typically book their properties in October. But here it is, January, and I feel like they want to break up with me. I have the feeling their data is in separate systems and they have no idea who I am as a person when marketing to me. And now, as a somewhat regular client, they’ve pissed me off as a result.

Email header: “One click can tell: do you still want to hear from us?”

Copy: “It’s been a while since we’ve heard from you, so we’d like to confirm your interest in receiving ______________ email.”

But, Mr. Hotel Man, you HAVE heard from me. I was just there a few months ago. I don’t need your services every month – but I do use them. So what gives?

After this direct approach to force engagement, I’m thinking of dropping off their subscribe list all together. Travel and hotel stays are supposed to be enjoyable – a relaxing pleasure, or an escape. When enticing business travelers, friendly copy goes a long way.

Lessons Learned:

Know thy customer.Understand who they are and how/when they buy from you based on your data. And if your POS or booking systems can’t communicate with your marketing endeavors, you need a profile based data environment to pull everything together around the activities and preferences of each individual customer so this type of thing doesn’t happen.

Consider the “voice” of your copy. Too often emails like this are crafted by people who are not sensitive to overall positioning. “By golly, those people out there are going to have to get with it if they want to keep getting emails from us.”

“The money is in the list.” Wise words from a fellow copywriter. In other words, you have your list (especially those who personally opted in), so don’t screw it up. In the process of polishing up your list and clarifying your audience, do so with awareness of how people prefer to engage with your brand. In this case, I would have preferred a softer approach, one where I can customize the content of emails I receive from this hotel chain. But that requires a level of sophistication that they obviously don’t have quite yet.

Send smarter. Give them a reason to click – one that is relevant to their interests and needs. Offer a compelling benefit and they’ll remain engaged. And if they’re engaged, you won’t risk annoying them with an approach that’s too strong.

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