Email Marketing & Automation

How to Set Email Subscriber Expectations and WIN!

Are your email subscribers clicking through to your websites, ordering your products, or registering for your events as expected? No? Instead, are they simply unresponsive, unsubscribing or (gasp) complaining? If so, perhaps you’re not clearly establishing mutual expectations.

So how do you manage the high expectations of your subscribers and then compel them to act?

  1. Tell your subscriber EXACTLY what you expect of them.
  2. Tell your subscriber EXACTLY what they can expect of you.
  3. Do EXACTLY what you said you were going to do.

Telling someone what you’re going to do or getting them to do something, just by asking them, is easy and completely obvious, right? Yet most email and web communications don’t do it. Which is why many marketers, despite otherwise well crafted campaigns, end up with less than stellar results and waning subscriber bases.

The term ‘tell them’ may sound a bit callous to most marketers. After all, your subscribers are smart people and they understand your product and what you’re trying to accomplish. But once you’ve gained your subscriber’s attention and trust, and then presented all the benefits of your offerings, the hand-holding has only just begun. Here’s why.

It’s not that your subscribers are dumb. They’re you, your mom, and your brother. But like you they’re busy. There are a lot of near-term tasks competing for their attention. The fact is that your hurried subscribers may not know what they should do next, what to expect, or even who you are or what you want, unless you spell it out with painful clarity. You truly must tell the subscriber exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Here’s how.

When you want your subscriber to take action, be it adding your mailing email address to their safe sender list or buying your service, use highly specific language with concrete details in every communication. Don’t leave any question about what you want to happen. Don’t be afraid to be too obvious. As with any healthy relationship open, two-way communication is the key to success. But it’s a two-way street. So, in exchange you must tell the subscriber what you’ll be doing (or not doing) to nurture or progress said relationship.

There are many ways to set mutual expectations, let your corporate culture be your guide. But here’s an example of a confirmation email that might have been crafted by the late, great copywriter Gary Halbert.

Subject Line/Headline: You’re in! Now what?

Body Content: Hi Sue. The custom demo that requested is now ready and waiting for you here. Once you visit ( we’ll ask if you want to test the silver, gold, or platinum plan. Select the platinum; it’s really the best value. The demo will take only a half hour but you’ll be able to clearly make a purchasing decision at that point.

If for some reason you’re unable to view your customized demo today, we will attempt to reschedule every two weeks from this date, unless you tell us otherwise. So, what do you say? There’s no time like the present?click here.

For most marketers this approach seems a bit over the top (perhaps because they know the product and their processes too well) but for your busy subscriber (because you’re asking them to spend their money and/or time), this level of detail creates a comfortable understanding and a clear call to action.

In other words, if you want to create more a successful email marketing program you must set the expectations for both parties, upfront and on an ongoing basis. First decide what actions you’re going to take; perform only those actions. Then decide what action you want subscriber’s to take; ask them to take that action. State it clearly, succinctly and unmistakably.

Scott Hardigree

Scott Hardigree is CEO at Indiemark, a full-service email marketing agency and consultancy based in Orlando, FL. Scott can be reach at

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