8 Best Practices for Building Trust in Email Marketing

On this blog, we often discuss various metrics used to assess the success of email marketing. They include statistics related to open rates, conversion rates, click-through rates, and others.

But, according to Matthew Telfer at Marketing Nerd, the most important metric that email marketers should focus on is one that can’t be measured easily, if at all: trust.

“Email marketing based around trust will create a profitable relationship with your customers and subscribers,” Telfer writes, adding that the foundation of email-marketing trust is the concept of permission, which we recently discussed here.

Telfer says that email marketers can begin to build trust by sending messages that are anticipated by recipients; they can then nurture and maintain trust by making their messages personal and relevant.

With that in mind, here are best practices for building and sustaining your customers’ trust

1. Get permission before sending

Sending messages to people who haven’t asked you for them is not good business – and a practice with consequences that can go beyond simply ensuring recipients distrust you. “People who haven’t given you permission are more likely to report your campaigns as spam, and less likely to engage with your campaigns or make purchases,” writes MailChimp.

2. Make it clear who your messages are from

“A clear sender identity is itself a contributor to trust,” writes Mark Brownlow at Smart Insights. Personalize “from” addresses and avoid generics such as “noreply” or “sender.” Alternatives: a person’s name, your organization’s name (or both person and organization), a brand name, or the name of the list or newsletter.

3. Let recipients know what they will receive from you – and follow through

“When someone signs up to hear from you, send them a ‘welcome’ email, being clear about what they can expect,” writes Jon Miller at Inc. “If they’re signing up to learn the latest about trends in your industry, don’t send them a sales pitch every day — don’t send them one ever. If they’re giving you their email and asking to be kept informed about sales and products, then it’s a little different.”

And Jessica Edmonson at the Marketo blog adds: “Like any relationship, getting through the initial stages is just the start. Without trust, you have nothing. To be successful, you need to build trust by staying true to your words and being reliable and reputable.”

4. Ensure every message you send respects the customer

“Overall, our conversations with someone over email shouldn’t be that different from if we were talking with them — or engaging them in a discussion — in person,” writes Jon Miller. “Even if someone were to ask you to tell them about products and sales, you wouldn’t only ask them if they’re going to buy right now. Every single email in on your list should be thought of as a covenant between two parties. The recipient will receive emails she wants, delivered when she wants them, and the data gathered from the email program will be used to send better, more relevant emails.”

5. Leverage personalization and contextualization techniques

Personalized emails that use your customer data to deliver powerful contextual experiences can be very effective at building and maintaining trust-based relationships with recipients. “Context takes ‘right message, right person, right time’ to a whole new level. It forces you to approach subscribers in such a way that they actually appreciate hearing from you,” writes Justine Jordan at Relevance.

6. Use newsletters for relationship-building

“With every newsletter you send, you educate your audience about your business while building trust at the same time,” writes Wendy Burt-Thomas at Vertical Response. “Newsletters are like lunch dates. These digital meetings give you and your contact a chance to catch up. The purpose of your newsletter isn’t to sell, but to inform. Tell your audience about recent changes, highlight an exceptional employee and mention upcoming events. Get in the habit of sending your newsletter on a regular basis so customers come to expect it.”

7. Don’t overhype your content with misleading subject lines/headlines

“Writing headlines is a fine art and while the BuzzFeed-style baited headlines might get more clicks, people forget about the impact on the trust of their brand,” writes Dan Norris at Zapier. “The style I dislike the most is when the headline implies something and when you click through, you find out that it’s not the same thing. This kills trust and isn’t worth the click.”

8. Acknowledge your mistakes

“Apologize for sending out the wrong deal, an inaccurate fact, or a broken link. It’s an opportunity to build trust,” says Wendy Burt-Thomas. “Admit your mistake and explain how you’ll correct the problem in the future.”

“Consumers recognize that companies make mistakes,” adds Loren McDonald at Silverpop. “In fact, acknowledging and properly acting on an error can often result in a more engaged customer.”