Email marketing is necessary for 99% of businesses. And, I’d argue that even that other 1% would benefit from adding it to their marketing mix. However, the email marketing heyday has come and gone. Believe it or not, there was a day in which you sent an email and got a 90% response rate. Can you imagine?
Today, inboxes are flooded with ineffective promotional emails. To steal my story from this post, this year, I am not lying to you when I say I received no less than TWENTY emails from Overstock.com in 2 days between Thanksgiving and Black Friday. TWENTY EMAILS. And each time, I got more annoyed for a few reasons: First, they all said the same thing. No creativity or variation in the promotion at all. Second, twenty is too much. No means no. Finally, the discount they were offering was 15% off.
I’m going to be honest, I rarely buy anything online for full price and for them to email me 20 times about a TINY discount like that was laughable.
Because so few companies offer real value in their emails, email marketing is going the way of TV and Radio Ads.
So, if it’s necessary, but often ineffective, how should you use email marketing?
Your emails have to MATTER. Let’s face it, we’re battling the junk mailbox and auto-delete. If your emails aren’t relevant, you don’t stand a chance. The good news is that you can set up systems to determine what matters to your audience. What pages of your site do they visit most? What are your most popular products or services? What previous emails have they responded to?
Don’t assume what your customers are interested in, use the data to be sure.
The easiest way to make sure that your emails are relevant is to develop a sales funnel that mirrors the customer journey. Determine what they need at each stage and write your emails to provide that information. A sample would be something like this: Awareness, Interest, Qualification, Sales, Referrals. At each stage, you’d want customized content that moves people to the next step.
Another way to ensure your emails are personalized are to track what products each contact has shown interest in previously. This can be done through website tracking, email testing, or even in-store experiences. Product-specific emails are especially important if your business caters to multiple different target audiences and the products don’t necessarily overlap.
Being valuable is a CLOSE second in importance to being relevant. Relevance can get you a couple of emails opened, but if your consumer realizes that they aren’t valuable, you’ll get a quick unsubscribe. So, how do you know what’s valuable to your customers? It goes back to the idea of interruption that I talked about in this post. You want your email to be so interesting and valuable that they don’t even realize that it’s promotional content. The way to do that? Be customer-focused, not sales-focused.
Influencer content is a great way to provide valuable content (and allow others to “sell” for you). Partner with social media or industry influencers to showcase how they’ve used your product or service. Think of it as a case study, of sorts. This not only offers social proof for your customers – in other words, they can actually believe a third party that endorses your offering – but also gives you the opportunity to connect with influencers and spread your brand through their audience.
Deep promotions are another way to offer value, but be careful. Consumers today are too smart to fall for 15% off (see my story at the top of this post) and you can’t overdo the discounts. I like to have my clients plan out their promotions quarterly so they don’t get desperate and start sending a promotional email every other day.
Finally, if your product or service requires some education to understand, that information can be another source of value for you to use in your email marketing. Consider using video as a format and even incorporating influencers as we discussed above.
The key to emailing without annoying is visibility into your email analytics. How will you know what is valuable or relevant if you can’t tell who is opening and clicking on your emails? Use a tool that enables you to monitor the success of your email campaigns and set a time each month or each quarter to evaluate success and adjust the strategy.
As your email list grows, you can also consider segmenting your contacts into groups to provide even more specific and relevant content. For example, customers that purchased from you 3 years ago are likely interested in different content than those who purchased last week. Those older contacts might need some “warming up” whereas recent customers could be enticed by a follow up discount.
The same thing applies to those who consistently open your emails and those who haven’t clicked in many months.
The point is, you don’t know what’s working and what’s not, who’s opening your emails and who’s not, without the analytics to support your strategy.