Email marketing is possibly the most effective inbound marketing tool available. After all, it allows you to develop an ongoing relationship with potential customers. It enables you to demonstrate intense respect for your customers so that they welcome and treasure your messages.
When done well, it sets the stage for a respectful relationship.
Email Marketing is barely welcome. Why?
And yet, that's not what we experience nowadays... Too much of email marketing is about outbound marketing. Lately, I feel under attack: whenever I look at my inbox, another 100+ unwelcome email messages have appeared. My inbox has serious indigestion. I bet yours does, too.
It's particularly perplexing when you think back on your earliest experiences receiving mail.
As a kid living overseas, I couldn't wait for mail addressed to me to arrive. Not only were the stamps magical, but the message was meant just for me. It was customized based on the knowledge that the sender had about me. That person sent me a bit of herself which I treasured. I reciprocated with my own customized response.
Over time and many letters, our relationship developed based on how much we had learned about one another.
Email establishes a direct connection between the sender and the recipient
Email similarly establishes a direct connection with another person. It, too, can allow a relationship to develop if the sender takes the time to consider who is receiving the message and develops a message worth interacting with. When you do, your email communications can be something recipients can't wait to open and engage with.
Sounds simple. Sadly, it isn't. Too much of the email that companies send out has little to do with common sense. Messages are repetitive, unrealistic (if I've just purchased something, how does sending me 15 buy-now-more-of-the-same messages immediately after my initial purchase make me feel?), and rapidly unwelcome.
For the marketer, the aggravation deteriorates quickly into negative feelings. Identifying the sender as junk or spam is often the only solution customers have for relief especially if unsubscribe or managing email preferences doesn't seem to offer any relief. (See How Not To Get More Business: 7 eMail Retail Experience Horrors!.)
How then to create email customers welcome?
At INBOUND13, HubSpot's Tom Monaghan (aka @computertom on Twitter) shared his marketing story in "Hitting send and other mistakes" based on having figured out how to organically grow his email list from 1 person (his mom) to 77K.
Tom quickly realized that, to be successful, he needed to create email marketing that people loved so they willingly connected and engaged with his messages and his company. Here is his religion of email:
- Remember 3rd grade
- Send less email (focus on better rather than more email)
In 3rd grade, mail was magical: we loved getting it and couldn’t get enough of it. He reminded us of the basics of a letter. A letter has 3 parts, salutation + body + closing. Same goes for email.
Emails need to reflect respect
What made those messages so special? Essentially, respect. Email marketing that customers welcome and love must reflect respect.
- Respect recipients' time. The message has to be awesome. Can you write a truly persuasive email?
- Respect their job. Don’t clutter inbox.
- Respect their inbox
- Respect the permission they gave you. Email is a contract between you and the recipient. (See Get More Customers? Offer Opt-in Email, Text Messages.)
- Spend time thinking about your email list; can you segment it into like groups to whom you can send a targeted and relevant email?
- If you are in the fishing business, will some of your contacts prefer information about salt water fishing rather than fresh water? Will the equipment be the same for both segments?
- Explore differences and find pockets of commonality that you can create engagement around in your email communications.
To confirm that customers welcome your email: measure and analyze!
Tom recommends paying close attention to clicks; it's a direct number.
Open rate, on the other hand, is hard to interpret.
Even better is receiving a reply to your email; that states engagement and says you have a relationship with the recipient.
15 steps for creating email messages customers will welcome and love!
1. We all get too much email. Send less email while making each message you send unforgettable.
2. Be human. No robot speak or cold marketing speak. Use the person’s first name (7% higher CTR with firstname token).
3. Think how to create engagement.
4. Only send marketing messages when you have something awesome to say.
5. Mix up the kinds of messages that you send and monitor which create the most engagement.
6. Experiment with your send dates. Based on HubSpot email CTR data, the best day to send is Saturday, then Friday, then Sunday. (BTW - that can change if every marketer starts sending out messages on Saturdays, etc.)
7. Don't hang on too long to contacts who don't interact with you. Focus on the people who are engaging with your content. Here's how to manage unengaged contacts:
- Take the people who haven't interacted with you and enroll them in a 'win-back campaign' after 3 months. Send an email highlighting your best content from last 3 months, say you missed them, invite them to come back, give them an attractive offer. Breakup if this still doesn’t generate engagement.
8. What to say in your email marketing? Remember that the email is never the first part of the conversation. Rather, email is a method for moving the conversation along. That's why you have to provide value, which requires you to do some homework to understand the recipient (think personas).
9. When your email is ready to send, check your work. Spam filters judge you, recipients judge you. Typos will lower click rates.
10. Don’t overdo email messages with graphics. Graphics do help; however, emails with no graphics work, too. Try no graphics email and measure results. Too many graphics can look spammy. Mix it up.
11. More is better with links in email messages. Links give people more opportunities to click on them as they read. Don’t put links to your home page. Instead, direct readers to actual relevant content on your website. Think how to add value with each link.
12. Shorter emails are better than long ones.
13. Remember that engagement means that everything gets better. Your recipient and customer becomes more forgiving and interested in your email messages. Segment these people with something specific to them so you can strengthen the relationship. Answer their questions before they even have the question. In other words, don’t send 1 size fits all emails!
14. Every single email should tell you something about your customers. Ask them questions. Email is an amazing way to communicate with customers, and build trust on their terms.
15. Make sure you fill in preview text for your emails. This is huge for being welcome!