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5 Tips to Escape the Dangerous Friend Zone and Find Your Email Soul Mate

06/26/2015 08:30 am ET | Updated Jun 25, 2016
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In the world of dating, everyone wants to avoid a Justin and Selena-like fallout and find their Prince Harry and Princess Kate romance, but it's not always easy. The biggest challenge in today's realm of romance is to simply get noticed, stay in the game and avoid the dreaded "friend zone."

The dynamic is the same for marketers navigating their email contacts. Every list is made up of a wide array of users, from the 5-star highly engaged and loyal recipients, to the 0-star completely inactive contacts. Aside from the few steady relationships with those 5-star users, as a marketer, you will inevitably have a group of 0-star contacts who are only vaguely aware of your existence. These non-engaged contacts are dwelling in the danger zone of email marketing and may actually be preventing you from finding your email true love.

Zero-star contacts in the "danger zone" can be breaking your heart in more ways than one. Not only do they require significant time and resources in attempts to spark a flame, but these contacts can also actually be spam traps preventing potential relationships with users who are truly interested. Non-engaged contacts can stem from "dead users" or bad email addresses that should have been deactivated, but instead were used to create email traps reverting your message to spam. Multiple emails from your brand that are sent to spam will actually increase the chances that other servers will identify your message as junk. Therefore, these 0-star contacts can actually harm your overall ability to deliver to the rest of your list. Just as being stuck in the "friend zone" of a relationship will prevent you from finding your true love, email contacts stuck in the danger zone may prevent you from finding your email soul mates.

Once you identify which contacts are your most engaged and which are your least, which can be done through available tools such as Campaigner's Contact Engagement Scorer, you can hone in on the ones playing hard-to-get. Then simply follow these five tips to take your email relationships from the friend zone to the honeymoon phase:

1. Play it Cool
Think of each email as asking for a first date. Going over the top with roses and a string quartet when you've only just met will definitely scare a potential love interest away. Similarly, coming on too strong with a barrage of emails will get you blacklisted or stuck in the friend zone for good. Instead, reduce your email frequency to just a few per year along the lines of "How are you doing?" or "Just checking in" emails. This will show that you're still interested and want to get to know them better, without being overbearing.

2. Win Them Back
Let's face it, anyone who has played the dating game has been there at least once. You screwed up and had to pull out all the stops to win back your sweetheart. Email marketers should be prepared to do the same. Develop win-back campaigns for certain 0-star and low engagement contacts, especially those who showed a fair amount of interest before going dark. Court your contacts with personalized emails based on their previous interactions with your brand. "We want you back!" emails that feature special offers are a great way to rekindle a fizzling email romance.

3. Spice Things Up
The easiest way to let a relationship die is by being boring. For 0- or 1-star contacts lurking in the danger zone, something in your current marketing strategy clearly isn't working to swoon them over. So, try something new and spice things up. Use A/B split testing to play with a few new and exciting subject lines or calls-to-action. Figure out which ones resonate best with your suitors and incorporate them into your dating game. After the third delivery of roses and chocolates, your approach might be a tad predictable. Consider switching out your standard promos with useful informational content personalized to your contacts' taste. They will appreciate getting something useful and may be intrigued by seeing a different side of your brand.

4. Set Your Boundaries
No matter how attractive these customers are there has to be a point where you decide the relationship just isn't working. How long do you really want to be stuck in the friend zone? Set some basic parameters around inactive contacts and how much effort they are worth from your brand. Decide how many attempts you are willing to make to salvage an email relationship before you cut the cord and move on. If they don't show any signs of interest within this timeframe, remove them from your list and focus on your 5-star contacts that are worth your while. Remember, it can do more harm than good if you continue to woo contacts that are just not that into you. Let them go before they blacklist you and put your entire email game at risk.

5. Don't Pop the Question Too Soon
For those subscribers that you are successfully guiding out of the danger zone and into an email romance, remember to take it slow before popping the question (asking them to make a purchase). Email marketing should not be solely focused on closing a deal or making a sale. A one-track mind typically spells disaster in any relationship, and popping the big question too soon will run the risk of your contacts saying "I don't." Take ample time to build up a solid relationship and get your contacts engaged with your brand. Once you have a steady foundation, offer a product that you know they might like based on your previous interaction. You wouldn't present your sweetie with an engagement ring that you weren't certain she would love, so don't be passé with your email contacts either.

The challenge of escaping the dreaded friend zone is difficult no matter what type of relationship you have. But for email marketers, it's not impossible. By utilizing these tips, you might just have a chance to win over those 0-star users that (almost) got away.