There are two broad approaches to marketing, interruption marketing and permission marketing.
One barges its way in to your consciousness though noise and repetition, the other adds enough value that you actively choose to receive it.
Effective email marketing is absolutely based around the principles of permission marketing. All those spam emails you NEVER read? Interruption marketing at its worst.
Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. – Seth Godin
So how do you convince someone to a) sign up to receive marketing emails from you, b) read them and c) act on them?
By building trust
Effective email marketing is:
- Anticipated: People will anticipate the service/product information from the company.
- Personal: The marketing information explicitly relates to the customer.
- Relevant: The marketing information is something that the consumer is interested in.
In this post I will show you how email marketing based around trust will create a profitable relationship with your customers and subscribers.
Content they know they want
Two important questions to ask yourself before sending any email are:
- How are you adding value for your readers?
- How are you helping them be more successful?
Sending people company news is absolutely fine, as long as it is written in a way that shows how it benefits your customers/readers.
But just sending this week after week isn’t going to excite anyone, and it won’t make people look forward to your next email.
By solving problems and adding value, your readers quickly learn to trust your emails as being a useful resource, and not another cold sales email.
Cross-pollenating content from your blog is a great way to tick both these boxes. (Don’t have a blog? Here is why every business should have a blog.)
Moz.com have always used email marketing really well. Their ‘Moz Top 10’ is packed full of useful links and makes no attempt to get me to buy their service.
They use email marketing as an extension of their content-led marketing strategy. Moz use their own, and 3rd party content to position themselves as thought leaders.
This makes them extremely confident I will choose their service if I have any need for that type of software. Maintaining contact and my engagement is achievement enough for them right now.
Target and personalise
Email is one of the few marketing channels you have that you can heavily personalise to a user. Take advantage of this.
This goes beyond inserting their name in to the salutation (e.g. “Hi Matt” rather than “Dear customer”), and it includes personalising the content you send them as well.
The easiest way to do this is to segment your list based on the actions they take (or don’t take).
If you are a blog…
This can be done by segmenting your subscriber list by their level of engagement (e.g. opens and clicks). Services like MailChimp (which I use) gives each subscriber a star rating based on how they interact with your emails.
The type of content you send to the regular readers can be a lot more content driven and interactive than those who don’t engage with you.
The unengaged segment list should get emails aimed at getting them to, you guessed it, engage more.
If you sell products online…
Segment your list using a Recency, Frequency and Value model (more on that here).
Your VIP group should receive content designed to mobilise them to advocacy, rewards to treat them as a special group and maintain a strong brand relationship.
Your bottom group (typically inactive customers) will need strong incentives to start buying from you again, so focus this content on special offers, bundling and getting feedback on how you can fulfil their needs in the future.
Ask your subscribers to self-categorise
Another approach to segmenting your subscribers is to ask them to put themselves in to categories.
These categories will depend on your audience, but as an example you could ask them to choose whether they are an individual, a business, a charity etc.
I have previously written what a great job Costa Coffee did with this in an email to me. You can read more about that here, but in a nutshell they are asked me to share my favourite coffee moment. These were predefined options to chose from:
- The ‘reboot my morning’ coffee
- The ‘I’ve shopped till I drop’ coffee
- The ‘Three peaceful chapters’ coffee
- The ‘Tell me everything’ coffee
- The ‘Little cup of me time’ coffee
- The ‘In my own little world’ coffee
As customers, we were segmenting ourselves for them. This information, married with purchase behaviour gleaned from my loyalty point card, will be an incredibly powerful tool for their branding, product and customer retention marketing.
Be a person, not a faceless company
We all get a lot of emails. To filter out irrelevant messages, one of the things we do when checking our inbox is to see who the emails are from.
I would recommend personalising the ‘From’ address to come from a named person. This helps to turn your company in to a team of people, not a faceless corporation. E.g. Matt@widgets.com is better than firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making it clear the email is from you contributes to trust by ensuring you’re quickly recognised. This draws on the strength of your relationship with the subscriber.
In the email itself, the biggest identity benefits come from a recognisable sender in the from line. The most appropriate format here depends on the nature of the email list and the familiarity of subscribers with all the options.
Typical alternatives are:
- Person’s name (e.g. a known account manager)
- Organisation’s name
- Person’s name + organization
- Brand name
- Name of email list or newsletter
A simple thing to set up, and highly recommended. Double opt-in pretty much guarantees good list quality.
By asking subscribers to confirm they asked to sign up via an initial email, this mechanism removes any email addresses that are either fake, or used by someone else to sign them up.