10 Steps to Build Trust With Email

October 25, 2022
By April Paige

How can you build more trust? You have to uphold the value exchange that occurs at opt-in. They give you something of value (their email address) in exchange for whatever you have promised, but trust-building begins even before that. These 10 steps are key:

1. Start before the opt in with your invitation and message.
Use language that persuades customers to hand over their most trusted email address instead of a burner or throwaway. (That said, you should still validate the email at opt-in!) Show that you can be trusted right out of the gates. This seems obvious, but have you reviewed your acquisition messaging lately to see if that's the impression you give?

2. Confirm the opt-in promptly.
You'll remind your subscribers when, where and why they opted in, and you can restate your value proposition.

3. Send a welcome series.
This introduces your brand and its products or services, values, customer FAQ, contact and buying info and anything else that can help customers feel good about dealing with your brand. Focus one email in your welcome series on data privacy, how you protect it, what you use it for and how customers can participate.

Test whether it’s better to drop customers right into your message firehose or gradually bring them on board.

4. Make your inbox presence clear and obvious.
These include a quickly recognizable sender name – do not use a team member’s name unless it's relevant, and never use someone's email address or a "do not reply" address. Use a precise subject line. Include a preheader to mention a secondary offer or other details.

5. Ask for and honor customer preferences.
This comes with a qualifier: "As best you can." Certainly, if someone asks to receive a weekly digest, don't send them your daily campaigns, but your business’ needs can sometimes require sending offers or content they haven't overtly requested. Just be thoughtful in how you use this tactic.

6. Track your customer's intimacy or engagement level.
Use relevant KPIs like clicks, conversions, activity in other channels, social followings, website behavior. Incorporate customer service contacts if you can (see next item).

7. Segment special-use cases for different messages.
These include people who have complained to your customer-service center, blasted your brand on social media or in a customer survey or had some other negative interaction. Sending an email with glowing copy about your products or your devotion to your customers, or even just the same old promotions will be like nails on a chalkboard to an angry customer. Moderate your tone with these customers and track their engagement to see if you can win them back.

8. Mix up your messages.
Instead of just sending campaigns, add an occasional informational message talking about your company, your fellow employees, how you make your products or where they come from. Storytelling builds trust by bringing your customers into your inner circle and showing them how the company works from the inside.

9. Audit your unsubscribe process regularly.
I still come across people who refuse to use the unsubscribe link because they think it just confirms their address as valid and leads to more unwanted email. This attitude might never go away, but you can mitigate it by making your unsub link as clear and easy to use as possible.

An audit will show you how your unsub process is working. Does the link work? Is the address scrubbed from your active database immediately? Are your suppression lists really suppressing emails from campaigns? Can customers find your link easily?

Test whether adding a second unsubscribe in your message, maybe at the top of your email, reduces spam complaints without costing you too many unsubs.

10. Hands off the suppression list.
I once worked for an email marketer who would regularly go through the global suppression list and send test emails to unsubscribed or hard-bouncing email addresses on the off chance they were falsely labeled or the address owner unsubbed accidentally. You won't be surprised to learn we had major deliverability issues.

One big trust-destroyer is receiving email messages you don't expect. The tiny gain you might get from sending to unsubscribed or suppressed addresses isn't worth getting blocked at your most important ISPs.