How can b-to-b marketers reduce opt-outs from email marketing?

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The perception that email marketing is free is dangerous in all types of marketing. It is particularly so in business-to-business, where executives are trying to battle email overload and are consequently prone to opt out if bombarded. When a customer opts out, the business loses its voice, and with it, an opportunity to nurture, present concepts, products, cross-sell, upsell and retain. This directly impacts the business' ability to influence customer lifetime value, and its bottom line. As one CMO put it, “The minute a customer opts out, I can't talk to them—but all of my competitors can.” Email marketing is efficient and relatively cheap, if executed correctly. There are several actions b-to-b marketers can take to reduce the opt-out.
  • Rethink relevancy. Relevance can no longer be defined simply as serving business offerings that “could be” of interest. Instead, marketers now must also consider which offers may not be of significant interest and have a mechanism in place to suppress them. Ultimately, each irrelevant offer received only contributes to customer ad fatigue, diminishes the experience and increases the likelihood of an opt-out.
  • Govern frequency. Don't overcommunicate. Now smart companies are empowering customers and prospects to self-govern communications. Companies offer opt-in choices as to the types and frequencies of emails customers prefer to receive. Companies also empower customers that indicate they want to opt out with the power to recalibrate the relationship, changing the types and/or frequencies of contacts to better match their needs rather than opting out altogether. In short, you want your customer to “opt down” rather than “opt out.”
  • Watch your opt-outs, not just your acquisitions. Traditional campaign effectiveness assessments typically look at key performance indicators (KPIs) such as click rates and campaign sales. However, organizations must take steps to actually understand the opt-out's monetary cost to their business and weigh this metric with equal attention. Businesses should take a more holistic view that considers customer lifetime value—and the effect that opt-outs can have on that. There is no relationship if you can't talk to them.
Sending too frequently is the main reason people opt out of email programs. One more unwanted email can become the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel's back.” Utilizing the best practices above can help minimize opt-outs and increase the lifetime value of customer relationships. Jeff Nicholson is VP-product marketing, CAI, at Pitney Bowes Software (, a provider of marketing software and services.
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