Deliver Value, Not Just Ad Messages, In Your Emails

Email is a backbone of an integrated digital marketing program. If used the right way, it can strengthen your relationships with your customers and subscribers. But some email cynics snicker at the concept of building a “relationship” with customers and prospects via email, likely because they treat it like a low-rent discount channel. As a result, they are only tapping a fraction of its superpowers.

value, not control
Image by Will Lion via Flickr

 

Forget whether your subscribers hold up their end of the relationship. This time, it’s all about you and what you’re doing to nurture your email relationships with your customers, prospects and subscribers. It’s time to enrich your email messages through content upgrades and variety. Here’s some advice:

Stop shouting
You know how annoying it is to be around someone who’s always selling something? Eventually, you just tune him out. But you’re just as guilty of this if your email messages push rather than pull and say only, “Buy this!” Leverage your “expert” status in your field to make your email messages more useful, and show customers that you can be a resource for them and that you value their business.

Add relevant, timely content
Upgrade your message from a one-off sales promo to a newsletter with additional information, resources, and links back to your site. You’re more valuable to your customers or subscribers as a knowledge partner — someone who helps your customers live better lives or solves business problems, answers questions, and offers more than he asks for.

Plus, it stands to reason that the more relevant information you offer through links in your email messages, the more likely something will snag a reader’s attention, even if it isn’t your central offer. Additional content could include the following:

* Industry news 
* Consumer reviews and ratings 
* New products 
* Insider tips 
* Q&A with a company executive, customer, partner or industry influencer
* Personal note from the CEO or high-profile consumer representative, like a buyer
* Customer (B2C) or client (B2B) spotlight or mini case study
* Site-specific search
* Contact information
* One-question poll

Vary the message
If you aren’t ready to upgrade to a newsletter, change out one of your sales promos for a different story. For example, you could include the following:

* Survey, sent either to the whole list or a select subset (use the results of the survey for a follow-up email)
* Information about popular or new products
* Breaking industry news
* Invitation to join social-networking communities 
* Invitation to customer-only events 
* New customer initiatives from other departments, such as switching to paperless billing
* Invitation to fill out or add to a customer profile (plus stating the benefits) or to upgrade to a higher level of service

Best practices
* Take baby steps. Expand your newsletter one module at a time.
* Ask what they want. Survey subscribers to see what else they’d like to get in email.
* Be open to change. Test each addition before committing to a permanent template change.
* Make decisions based on data. Track clicks to see what people really respond to best.

Sync email communications across the company
* Consider all of the emails that go out every day from your company: your marketing messages, transactional messages, contacts by salespeople and customer support, etc. Do they have a uniform look and feel, or are they a hodgepodge of style and content? A free-for-all atmosphere can create disconnects that block or undermine your efforts to build long-term, productive customer relationships.
* Establish basic best practices and templates.
* It’s time to employ your email expertise. Lobby your boss for a task force charged with unifying email communications.
* Insist that customer/support emails use best practices for inbox appearance (“from” name and subject line).
* Create a professional template that includes the company brand for personal contacts from sales and support.
* Test messages for deliverability. Ask to change anything that could instigate ISP blocks or filters.

The point is to deliver value, not ads.

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