Relationships Are Hot; Acquisition is Not

Acquisition (n.) the act of gaining possession; the purchase of one business enterprise by another

Acquisition is an odd choice of word for marketers to use in reference to new subscribers. Would you introduce someone you’ve started dating as a new acquisition, or someone you possess? (I hope not!) It’s more likely that you would say he or she is a “significant other” or “special friend,” indicating a mutual and reciprocal relationship. Therefore, if it’s a relationship we’re entering into with our new customers, why do we describe it as “acquisition”?

Introduction. Connection. Network. Friend. Ally. Associate. Partnership. There are many other terms that more accurately capture what marketers are striving to achieve — gathering a group of like-minded individuals with a similar interest for mutual benefit.

With this perspective, let’s re-evaluate the crucial first phase of the marketer-subscriber relationship. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to reinvigorate your approach.

Introduction: Clear as Mud?
Retailers have a bad habit of hiding the opt-in disclosure during the sign-up process. It’s hidden in the general terms and conditions, glossed over by a sales associate, or left out altogether during checkout. First impressions are lasting, so properly introducing yourself to a potential new partner is vital. Be bold, be transparent and be confident in putting your best foot forward.

  • At the point of sale in brick-and-mortar locations, provide sales associates with a brief script. Include an invitation along with a brief highlight of what they will get as an email subscriber, such as frequency and content types. (Tell them if other brands will be mailing, too.) Keep the language on-brand and positive to drive interest. Then, follow up the store interaction with a confirmation email that reiterates all those same points.
  • Forty-nine percent of sign-ups are coming from mobile devices, yet mobile-entered data is twice as likely to have errors. Take proactive measures to capture accurate information, such as real-time email validation, which flags users to correct errant data immediately within the form. This avoids a “he stood me up” experience, with a new subscriber waiting on email they will never receive.

Connection: Is There a Spark?
Keep the momentum going post-introduction by intentionally fostering interest. The subscriber’s experience during the first 30 days will determine whether they will engage in a long-term relationship. Be thoughtful about how you interact in those first few weeks, with the goal of building trust and a solid foundation.

  • Welcome messages are common, and one in four retailers include a coupon in the first email. However, this may not be the most relevant experience, especially for those who are opted in during the purchase process. Instead, recognize their sign-up method and send content that’s relevant to that interaction. Rather than a coupon, perhaps it’s styling advice via an exclusive video or bonus loyalty points. Demonstrate that you’re paying attention — because they are.

Partnership: Is There Mutual Benefit?
No one wants to be in a one-sided relationship. Examine your message stream for warning signs: Is it all about what you get? Or is there a balance of give and receive? Do you listen or just scream the same thing over and over again?

  • Be intentional about designing the best experience for your new subscribers. Hyperpersonalization is on the rise, but even the simplest approach can wow recipients. Identify what makes you special and embrace that wholeheartedly. Your wow factor may be a fun personality, helpful resources or old-fashioned good manners. (A nice thank you never goes out of style!) At this early stage, it’s truly the thought that counts as you begin to nurture your fledgling relationship.

In this evolving email landscape that hinges more and more on engagement with your customers and subscribers, the term “acquisition” suddenly feels antiquated — but your approach doesn’t have to be. In order to foster customer loyalty and grow your purchasers into advocates, you need to facilitate a solid start to each new subscriber relationship. After all, there can’t be a happily ever after without a storybook beginning!

This post originally appeared on Total Retail.

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