Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Email Marketing Tips Everyone Can use

One of my favorite movies is the 1985 film Fletch, starring Chevy Chase as wise-cracking investigative newspaper reporter Irwin M. Fletcher. Though it's 33 years old, there's one line that resonates with me to this day in my daily work. As Fletch's investigation into "drugs at the beach" widens, his harried editor Frank implores him to stop chasing conspiracy theories and finish the story by saying, "Give me something I can print!"

As I work as both an editor and a writer, "Give me something I can print!" has morphed into my catchall phrase for "Give me something I can use!" However, as I'm also a consumer of a lot of content, specifically email marketing content, I've also grown to ask the same of my emails. In other words, if I'm going to opt-in for someone's emails, I want what they send me to be worth my time. And if you're using email to market your business ask yourself, are you giving your customers something they can use?

The impetus for this rant began awhile back when I received an email, ostensibly from the owner of the company, with the subject line "I'm sorry, forgive me?" Curious, and thinking a mistake might have been made in a previous email, I opened it and was greeted with perhaps the worst line of email copy I've ever seen:

So, overlook the fact that this was essentially an email bait-and-switch and the incomparably bad copy ("Now buy these products" has all the creativity and subtlety of a cinder block) and focus instead on what this email is; a really bad marketing ploy with a cheap subject and even worse content. Granted, there were a couple products discounted lower in the email (you know, information one might be interested in) but the cheap subject line hook and even worse copy made me ignore that and go straight to the "Unsubscribe" button.

Well, actually, being a glutton for punishment (and always on the lookout for examples of what not to do in marketing) I haven't unsubscribed yet because, just like a crash happening in slow motion, I can't help but keep watching. And when I did, I got more emails with even worse subject lines and equally bad content. A sampling:

So what's the lesson in all this? If you're marketing your business through email, give the recipients something they can use. Even though most people have more than one email address these days, consumers are still very cautious about who and what they allow in those email boxes and the last thing any marketer wants is to have a prospect opt-out or consign their emails to the spam folder.

Quick, what's the goal of your email marketing? If you said boost sales, you're only one-third right. Your email marketing should also build trust, build relationships and build sales. Frankly put, sending out only sales and promotional email messages and cheap, "made-you-look!" subject lines won't do that. 

So, how can you do all three? Simple; rotate your marketing approaches. Create compelling articles you can compile into an email newsletter. Educate your prospects on new trends or products in your field. Include testimonials from, or profiles of, satisfied customers talking about how they use your goods or services. Create content and send out links to blogs, webinars, and/or podcasts. You can certainly throw in a subtle sales message along the way but, since most prospects won't be ready to buy the second they open your sales email, the key is to use your other content to be the trusted, top-of-mind source when they are ready to purchase. That's what it's called a "drip campaign."

Now that you've got your content in order, focus on your subject lines to help your emails get opened. If you're sending out an newsletter, point out the highlights (i.e. March News; How Technology Is Changing Widget Performance) and do the same with blog or podcast links. If you do send out a sales email, highlight the products (i.e. New 2017 Widgets Now In Stock) or show the savings (i.e. Save Up To $100 On The Newest Widget Technology).

Finally, don't be afraid to experiment and keep track of what works and what doesn't with your email marketing. It might be a mix of testimonials and soft-sells or maybe your links to blogs or articles generate more web traffic and that's what increases your sales. Or maybe you split test, running one sequence to one audience segment and a sequence with a different approach to another. While every business is different, make sure you run through at least one or two email sequences to provide a good data set you can use to adjust your strategy. (btw Once you find a successful formula, try to improve on any follow-up campaigns so that they're even better than the original. Avoid just rehashing what worked the first time, like say the Fletch sequel, Fletch Lives.)

If someone opts-in to your email marketing, the last thing you want is for those emails to drive them to opt-out. Instead, make sure your emails not only stress the value of your goods or services, but also offer some level of value to your customer by providing compelling content they can use. In other words, give your customers something they can use and, when they're ready to buy, odds are, they'll put what you're selling to use!