The Love Line is Open: Relationship-Building Tips for Email Marketers

Love is in the air, and it’s a great time to let your customers know how much you “heart” their business. It’s also a good time to remember that you should nurture these relationships every month of the year.

At first blush these tips may seem like relationship advice from Cupid, but they should also be taken to heart when it comes to email list building and maintenance. Integrating these simple tactics can strengthen the value of your email program long after the images of flowers and valentines are stored away until next year.

1. Aim for the heart. Like Cupid’s arrows, your email campaigns should be targeted. Don’t send the same Valentine’s Day greeting card to both your wife and mother. Relationships vary in love and in business as well. Use different sign-up forms to track each contact source and test different approaches to see what works best for each. Over time, by reviewing the level of interaction your email campaigns receive, you can see which sources generally have the most engaged contacts and segment future campaigns accordingly.

2. Be appropriate. Build your relationship with your audience by setting expectations up front. Don’t subtly try to trick people into opting into your list. Instead, make it clear and compelling. Getting more or different emails than they expected is a typical reason people unsubscribe or, worse, mark as spam. Make it easy for subscribers to adjust their email preferences. Listen to what they want changed or improved to make your emails more valuable — ideally before they unsubscribe.

3. Get engaged. Purchasing or harvesting a list will never yield the same quality as a permission-based list you build yourself. When building a quality mailing list, it’s just as important to maintain the list to ensure it performs well. Just like personal relationships, your email list needs attention. Frequently remove inactive recipients as they can negatively impact your reputation over time.

One of the many metrics a reputation system uses to evaluate reputation is engagement. A high amount of interaction gives a strong signal to email service providers that your email is wanted, anticipated and appreciated. Therefore, it’s in everyone’s best interest to place the email in the inbox.

4. Keep the spark alive. Re-engaging inactive subscribers is easy. First, determine what an appropriate period of inactivity is. Depending on the nature of your business, frequency of your emails and the expectation you’ve set with your subscribers, this amount of time will vary. For instance, a “daily deals” sender may want to re-engage inactive subscribers after four months whereas a monthly newsletter sender may want to wait 12 months.

Send a survey request or a simple email asking inactive subscribers to confirm their subscription by clicking on a call to action. The call to action should be a tracked link pointing to a page on your website that thanks them for confirming and provides additional information. Two weeks after sending the re-engagement email, remove those people who didn’t click the call to action.

Paul Turnbull is the product manager for Campaigner and is responsible for product design and providing an easy-to-use email marketing solution for small and midsized businesses. Paul can be reached at

Publish date: February 7, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT