There is one truth in email marketing that no one disputes; the more information you have on your subscribers, the better your targeting will be. You can gain such information in a number of ways: interpretation of returns from campaigns, personal contact and asking them, to name the obvious ones.
The main problem with the last example, asking, is that many people do not like answering personal questions and long forms are a put off even for those who don’t mind. Also, some questions are very difficult to phrase.
Take gender. The days are long gone when it was a binary question. Whilst estimates put those who do not consider themselves one specific gender at no more than 5%, the number of those who would be irritated by any question that excluded such people is considerably greater.
One way to avoid the problem, and do not underestimate the usefulness of such a ploy in business, is not to ask the question at all. This should be a consideration for every metric of email marketing. If you don’t need the information then searching for it, recording it and the processing of the information all costs. On top of that it might well confuse your targeting.
If you don’t need it, don’t ask is an excellent mantra and if you sell items that are non gender specific then you might think you are home and dry. This is, unfortunately, not necessarily the case.
Do you monitor gender in order to ensure that your dealings are fair and comply with the law? How can you do this without knowing how your subscribers classify their gender? It is possible you need such information for your end of year report. You might have an outreach programme that requires statistics to ensure it is effective.
Your business partners might also require such information. Certainly many in the public sector will demand it. Transgender is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.
It is probably better to ask the question. The problem is how.
If you try not to upset anyone by the question you ask them it would appear allowances are made. The classifications and the nomenclature vary over time and no one can stay abreast of all the changes, although that doesn’t stop some suggesting they have the latest update.
One option is to be simple and straightforward. Ask, for instance, if they are Female, Male or Non-binary. Avoid transgender as the only third option as some do not consider themselves classifiable as such. Other, whilst quite correct, and having the advantage of being all encompassing is a bit of a cop-out and provides no specific information other than they are neither male nor female.
I’ve noticed one or two subscription forms for email marketing lists have lately been changed to four box with the choice of Male, Female, rather not say and then they top it off with an Other with a free text box.
I do not favour free text boxes on sign up normally as it gives too much work for statistics. In this case I think it provides a complete solution.