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Strengthen Your Hellos and Goodbyes Make better connections with e-mail list sign-ups and opt-outs.

By Gail Goodman

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When someone signs up for your e-mail list--whether they found you online, received a forward or referral, or they signed up in person at your place of business--it's a sign you've made a good first impression. It means that a potential client or customer wants to get to know you and your business better--it means you're off to a great start.

A great relationship is often about expectations. This is true in our personal lives as well as in business relationships. In both, the relationships that endure are the ones where expectations are not only met, but they're exceeded.

So, they've signed-up. Now is the time to welcome them and set expectations for your e-mail communications. Make sure what you deliver matches the expectations you've set; or risk clients opting-out. Here are some tips for making stronger newsletter connections, and handling unsubscribe requests with care.

New Sign-Ups: Move Beyond the Simple Welcome
That "welcome to our mailing list" e-mail that you automatically send to new sign-ups should be more than just a thank you and a handshake. While a good first impression goes far, it doesn't guarantee a second date. You want to use this message to move the business courtship forward and set expectations for:

  • The type and quality of content you'll be sending (newsletters, promotions, coupons, event announcements, etc.).
  • The frequency of your e-mail communications (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.).
  • The name that will appear as the "sender" when your e-mail arrives in subscribers' inboxes (generally your business name).

Forward new subscribers the latest copy of your newsletter so they don't have to wait to see what they've signed up for. Put a "View Our Archive" link in your welcome e-mail and on your homepage next to your "Join Our Mailing List" box. That way, customers can see your earlier content before they sign up or as they get started.

Auto-Responders: When Hello Isn't Enough
Some prospects require more information and education about products and services before they're ready to buy, consider it a longer courtship.

An auto-responder sends out a series of follow-up e-mails that bring new subscribers up to the same level of knowledge as your regular readers. Automatic e-mails sent at regular intervals can cover the basics you want all your list members to know about, while issuing calls to action that move your relationship forward.

For example, reward new sign-ups to your mailing list by sending a series of timeless tips (specific and useful to your target market), along with a link that says, "Click here for a free consultation."

Each auto-responder e-mail should have a short, engaging, digestible chunk of information and its own call to action. Don't use auto-responders to ask for an order. Do use them to deepen your contacts' understanding of your business and to voice clear calls to action that reinforce your connection.

Opt-Outs: We Can Still Be Friends
In business, as in life, a few relationships will fall by the wayside. Your content won't be right for every customer forever. A few opt-outs are nothing to panic about. In fact, opt-outs are an opportunity to learn more about what your customers expect, need, and aren't getting from your e-mail communications. Just because someone is opting-out of your mailing list doesn't mean they're saying goodbye to your business.

Handle unsubscribe requests with as much attention and respect as you give subscribers in the welcome process. That's the best way to ensure the customer keeps the door open for your business to serve them in the future. Let them go gracefully with these three steps:

  1. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.Place a working unsubscribe link or button prominently in every e-mail communication you send out. Process unsubscribe requests promptly and remove those addresses from your list (10 days is when you must do this by law, but the best practice is to do it instantaneously).
  2. Create a friendly unsubscribe note.When you are told that someone has requested to be removed from your mailing list, send this person a confirmation message that it has been done, and maintain the same upbeat tone as your other e-mail communications. "We're sorry to see you go, but we hope you will visit us again soon" feels more personal than "You have successfully unsubscribed." Remember, every customer touch point matters, even the goodbyes.
  3. Learn from comments left by unsubscribers.Your unsubscribe confirmation note should also offer a chance for the customer to provide any feedback about why she has chosen to go. This valuable information will help you improve your e-mail communications. For example, you may learn that unsubscribers preferred less (or more) frequent communications, or were looking for a different type of content.

Handle your goodbyes the right way; your response to them will help you learn more about your customers and keep the door open to their patronage. Goodbye to your mailing list doesn't have to be the final word on your relationship.

Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.

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