Sorting out our email marketing opt-ins

by Becs — Email Wrangler

When I tell people I’m an Email Marketer, people immediately say “Oh you’re one of the ones that spams me”. I hate spam just as much as the next person, but the problem is that “spam” and “receiving too many unwanted messages” falls into the same category for most people. Here’s how we’re handling that at Conversio.

One of the downsides of Intercom, our ESP, is that you can only be subscribed or unsubscribed, there’s no preference center. This means that if we sent them a couple of emails to onboard them and they unsubscribed, they no longer received ANY information about new features we introduced. As a result, we were, in some cases immediately losing touch with our customers and with SaaS this usually means the customer never fully engages with your product. In fact, we’ve had customers who joined us in our infancy come back and say “oh I didn’t know you had x/y/z feature now!” because of this problem.

Since we send a whole host of different types of emails and they were all subject to the blanket unsubscribe, it made it a lot harder to decide whether we should send certain types of emails at all, for fear of receiving unsubscribes from a less important email and impacting on more important emails at a later date.

So we decided to make things better and let users choose what they wanted to actually hear from us about and give them the options to opt up and down as they pleased.

The basic mechanism for this is very simple — user receives email, user clicks on link to opt-down/unsubscribe, user updates subscriptions. But we decided to do better than this.

For a start, there is nothing worse than making the user do more than completely necessary when it comes to trying to remove themselves from communications. That includes making users re-type in their email address when they wanted to unsubscribe from a list (a CEO from one of my old companies genuinely suggested we should do this to prevent unsubscribes) and making them log into their account when they want to manage their email settings. It frustrates me, and I didn’t want this for our customers.

Secondly, it’s often hard to decipher exactly which types of messages are which, so you just have to guess and disable certain message types until you stop getting the ones you don’t want any more. That’s kind of annoying and unclear, we wanted to solve that.

1,2,3, All together now!

The first thing we did was create a new subscription management page which is available via the subscription management link in our emails and doesn’t require the user to log in to access it. It uses the customer’s unique, long, non-sequential ID as part of the url and this prevents other people managing their subscriptions.

As well as sending marketing emails, we also send transactional emails about billing, upgrades and downgrades and general account maintenance. Although you can’t unsubscribe from these, we still provide the same link to manage your subscriptions, it’s just that you can’t deselect notifications for them on the page.

These options are also available as part of the user’s settings in the Conversio app too.

You’ll remember above I mentioned it’s not always clear what type of email it is that you’re receiving. So we counteracted this two-fold. First, we’ll tell you what type of email it is, just above the opt-down link in the email. This opt-down link replaces the normal Intercom unsubscribe link.

Secondly, when you click on the link, we use parameters on the url to highlight which email type is it so you know which one to opt out of.

One of the things we can’t do is remove or change the List-Unsubscribe method that’s in the email’s headers and provides a direct-from-Intercom unsubscribe link next to our sender name.

The List-Unsubscribe method appears next to the sender name in Gmail (many other email clients offer this functionality too). Don’t start spamming me now you know my email :P

So to deal with this, if anyone clicks on that link, we take that unsubscribe and using the API, update all of their email notifications to be off (because we can’t determine exactly which type of email it is that they are unsubscribing from) and resubscribe them in Intercom. Why? Because otherwise, even if they did resubscribe to some of those notifications in the Conversio app at some point, they would still be unsubscribed in Intercom, meaning they won’t get the emails.

So that’s it really! These are the small types of improvements that we’re trying to work into Conversio to make using it a bit more pleasurable.

Note: We spoke to Intercom about it and they confirmed they have plans in the pipeline to allow recipients to tailor which notifications they receive from a company. Great news!

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