At the end of 2011, we talked about reasons subscriber
Small- and midsized-business marketers recognize the importance of helping prospects
“Relevancy,” “subscriber preferences” and “preference centers” are just a fancy
Build better relationships. Keep subscribers engaged. Improve deliverability. Have these
Facebook’s new features just won’t stop coming. Just before revamping
How do you think your subscribers would describe your emails? Do your emails focus on getting sales? Or do you make more of an effort to encourage loyalty to your company?
The key is balancing the two. You can personalize your email newsletters in order to build relationships, and this leads to developing a loyal subscriber base who are happy to hear what you have to offer.
Easier said than done, right? I found emails in my inbox that range from going for a hard sell to ones I love reading and interacting with. These examples contain valuable lessons that you can use for your own campaign to create messages subscribers love.
Mountz Jewelers: The Useless Announcement
This is a promotional email from Mountz Jewelers announcing a grand opening for one of their stores:
The problem with this email is that I have no use for it. This mistake could easily be avoided by segmenting based on the subscribers’ location. Announcing a grand opening in your email works only if the subscribers can easily get to that store.
Alfred Angelo Bridal: The Targeted Sales Pitch
This is a promotional email from Alfred Angelo about a bridal accessories sale:
Although still clearly a sales email, this one does a much better job:
- They are using the information I provided at sign up to send me information on accessories for brides, as opposed to something other wedding party members would need.
- They include a “Find a store” tool which is very helpful.
Neither Mountz Jewelers or Alfred Angelo do that much to get me to be a loyal customer. I don’t look forward to their emails nearly as much as the next two businesses that do make it more personal.
Active.com: Sharing Their Knowledge
This is a newsletter from Active.com:
Active.com makes it more personal by:
- Noting I’m interested in running and making sure that I get all running related information.
- Providing links to a wide variety of topics that could help me.
The only downside to their emails is their “Featured Events” section, which doesn’t have events near me. I use Active.com to register for all my races, so having upcoming ones near me would make a big difference.
TheKnot: Personal, Sharing, Selling…AWesome
This is a newsletter from TheKnot:
TheKnot newsletters I’m always excited to see. Why?
- They make it personal to me and what I’m doing.
- They use my name and wedding date, my location, and where I am in the planning process to deliver content that’s relevant to me.
- They make sure to include links to products and sponsored vendors in every newsletter, but the focus is on the personal content, which is a smart move.
How Can You Make Your Emails the Ones Subscribers Love?
1. Use subscribers’ information- You should only ask for information you plan on using. If you’re only asking for name and email, you can still target subscribers in a specific area using their IP address.
Continue to learn about your subscribers so you can provide them with more personalized emails. You can set up new custom fields, or start off with looking at their click through history.
2. Provide useful information for the subscriber- Don’t be like Mountz Jewelers and send your emails to those that can’t use it. Build loyalty by making sure subscribers receiving your message have something to gain by reading it.
3. Don’t just go for the hard sell- Both Mountz Jewelers and Alfred Angelo could add more to their emails. For example, Mountz Jewelers could link up some good examples of coordinating Pandora charms and popular combinations. Try and include something fun and interesting that is relevant to what you’re selling.
4. Ask for more information for further personalization- While it’s nice that Active.com has a bunch of resources to share, I’m most interested in information that deals with marathon training. Active.com could ask subscribers why they are interested in a particular sport to narrow those resources down.
How Are You Personalizing Your Emails?
What have you done to make your messages more personal?
As a rule of thumb, only 20% of customers make 80% of their sales. Sometimes the supporting segment is smaller – Coke Zero’s is 3%, according to marketing strategist Joseph Jaffe.
Your brand has it’s own ambassadors. They purchase loyally and refer their friends to you. You’re part of their lifesty
Those ambassadors are your best bet for growing your business. But how do you find out who they are? And once you do, how can you encourage their support?
With email, of course!
Find Your Ambassadors
Many marketing emails contain social share buttons. Readers can click to automatically share the message with their networks.
By tracking clicks on those buttons, you can see who’s hyping you on social sites. AWeber users, you can see this in your QuickStats. Start by clicking on a recently sent broadcast.
On the left, choose the option to display click stats.
Then scroll down and find the data for your social share links. (Design – replace image with example)
See that number? Those are the subscribers who are so excited about your brand, they’re already converting others.
Sharing one email isn’t necessarily an indication of deep loyalty. To get a clearer picture, use your Subscriber Search page to find people who shared not just one, but several of your emails
These people have already taken it upon themselves to advocate your business. Imagine what you could accomplish if you..
Team Up To Grow Your Brand Together
Your next step is to contact these people. (You can do this by creating a broadcast for them, then selecting the segment you created above to send to.) Let them know they’re your top customers and ask if they might be interested in participating in some special initiatives.
Give them five minutes of fame
Buy them lunch and ask for their thoughts in return. How do they feel about your service? How do they use your products? How is their life better because of your brand?
Then put together an email featuring their story. Send out a broadcast with inspirational ideas from these customers. Present them as the valued commodity they are.
You’ll have creative content. Your readers’ interest will be sparked. And the featured customers will feel more invested in your brand than ever.
Bring them on board
When designing a new offer or product, ask these your brand ambassadors for their reaction. If you can, use Nikon’s strategy and let them try it out.
If not, email them an exclusive sneak-peek and ask them for their reactions. To really get ideas flowing, link to a forum where invitees can build off each other’s ideas.
Thank them for their feedback with a fun token and sincere gratitude. Figure out which suggestions are feasible and wise and implement them. Then send another thank-you email for each idea you used.
When your customers see their ideas in action, they’ll gain a sense of ownership, increasing their loyalty to your brand. And the improvements that appealed to them are likely to attract similar consumers, growing your customer base.
Customers: Your Best Investment
“Smart companies go the extra mile for the customer and show them just how dedicated they are to making sure that they feel good about doing business with them,” he says.
How can you invest in your customers in ways that will convert them to ambassadors?
That’s the sound of a subscriber opening your last marketing email – and opening a mental door to more information on that particular subject.
Then there’s that other sound: the silence. That’s a subscriber who didn’t open their door this time.
In one scenario, you got to share some information. In the other, you didn’t. But in both, you’re still standing on the doorstep. So what to do next?
Make the Most of Your Doorstep Status
In either case, if you shrug and walk away, you’ve given up. Stick around and follow up. Sending a second email based on who opened and who didn’t can prompt a second wave of purchases.
This is called behavioral targeting: responding to subscribers’ behavior to get more response from the list and promotions you already have in place. It’s so effective, 71% of our customers report that they plan to do more of it in upcoming months.
Don’t Just Stand There – Go In!
Your marketing emails probably cover a myriad of topics. For example, if you own a restaurant, you might promote your menu, your wine selection and your catering service.
When you see people consistently open messages about one of these things, you’ve found your niche for that particular topic. Follow up with them!
- If they’ve shown interest in a product you’re advertising, put together a compelling reason to purchase with a call to take the next step.
- If they usually open the emails you send about a particular topic, go more in-depth. Provide helpful details, tell background stories.
- Explain where you hope to take things, and ask questions. These are your interested customers. These are the people who know most about the topic and will have the most helpful feedback to give.
How to Knock at the Unopened Doors
Sometimes, it’s not anything you did. Your readers are swamped with work or on vacation or their lives have changed and they’re no longer interested.
And sometimes they just aren’t gripped by what they see in the inbox.
So try again. Let a little time go by to make sure you aren’t sending into the same circumstances. Then change the way you present the content and resend it to just the people who didn’t open it.
Here are some suggestions for changing the presentation:
- If your email is a newsletter that covers several topics, the one your subject line mentioned the first time might not be the most interesting to your readers. Choose a different subject as the primary content and change your subject line accordingly.
- If your email covers just one topic, try changing the subject line. Think about what problem or question someone might have that your email answers, and highlight that.
If Knocking Doesn’t Work, Ring the Doorbell
You might notice that some of your subscribers haven’t opened a message in a long time. These are fatigued subscribers. They’ve checked out, but they haven’t left the building yet.
Knocking Around the Block
There are also messages you could send to follow up with subscribers who clicked (or didn’t click) on your links and who purchased (or didn’t purchase) from your emails. We’ll be talking about those in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes open!
Do you send messages to subscribers based on whether or not they opened previous emails? What do you send them?
On this blog and others, traditional “batch-and-blast” (PS don’t ever use that word unless you’re mocking it) email marketers have been hearing for a while now that relevance plays an important role in your email deliverability.
As far back as 2007, we noted that “spam” was about email subscribers don’t want or value. Not just email that they didn’t request (although that’s still spam, too).
As I noted in that post, “If you’re not providing value to subscribers, their actions with your messages will reflect that. ISPs track what’s done with your messages, and can choose to filter you out if they find you’re not ‘what the consumer wants.'”
This week, Gmail announced a new feature that makes this a reality.
Introducing The Priority Inbox
To manage our overflowing inboxes, a lot of people already sort email into groups of emails to read and respond to now, later or never. (Your own groups’ names may vary, or you may not even have a specific system like that… but I’d bet you read emails from certain people more often and/or more quickly.)
Gmail’s Priority Inbox attempts to simplify and automate this process for email users by figuring out which senders’ emails are important, based on how (or whether) you interact with those emails and senders.
Here’s how they explain it:
Priority Inbox is a beta feature that will be rolling out to users soon (I haven’t gotten it yet, but am eager to get my hands on it and see it in action).
What Are People Saying About It?
Here are a few of the articles I’ve read about it:
- Gmail Priority Inbox Launches (Mashable)
- Gmail Priority Inbox Sorts Your Email For You (TechCrunch)
- Inbox Hero: Gmail Priority Inbox Has Doused My Raging Email Fire (also TechCrunch)
- Priority inboxes, intelligent inboxes, quality bars and you (Email Marketing Reports)
I especially recommend you read the last one of those.
“So Do My Marketing Emails All Go Into The “Everything Else” Pile Now?”
Not necessarily, but consider the examples in the Gmail video… note whose email is getting prioritized (email from contacts, friends, people you email back and forth with regularly) and whose is not (the “Special Offer” email).
It’s early to make predictions about what all of this means – or if it will even stick around as a feature. You never know, Gmail users might end up not liking it (although I tend to doubt that’ll be the case).
That said, it’s clear that whatever the future of the Priority Inbox holds, ISPs are continuing to move toward creating systems that reward email that people want at the expense of email people don’t want. (Gmail isn’t the first to try this – the same sort of thing is happening at Yahoo! and Windows Live Hotmail.)
What this should tell you is that you need to take a long, hard look at whether your emails are something your subscribers really want. Because if they aren’t, you’re going to find it harder over time to continue getting them opened and clicked.
It’s Not All Gloom And Doom
In fact, this is excellent news if you’re creating and delivering email marketing campaigns that people want.
So the question is, how do you create emails people actually want?
Engage your subscribers in conversation via your emails. Invite feedback. Ask them questions. Increase the value that you deliver in your emails.
Start identifying groups of subscribers within your list who have similar interests. Start segmenting your list and creating more relevant emails.
Here’s a list of posts we’ve written on email segmentation. (If it seems like we talk a lot about segmentation on this blog, well… this is why.)
Email marketing blogs are constantly buzzing with talk of value; they go on and on about all of the different ways you can add it to your campaign.
But how can they possibly know exactly what readers find valuable? As Mark Brownlow attests, “value is defined by the reader and not by you.” It doesn’t matter how valuable you think your messages are. If a reader doesn’t find your content to be of interest, they’re going to stop opening your emails.
In fact, a recent survey found that 85% of consumers prefer that companies ask about their e-mail preferences at sign up. So instead of playing the value guessing game, read on to learn how to use email preferences to let your subscribers decide what they deem to be valuable.
Give Them What They Want
The easiest and least time consuming way to learn what information subscribers want to receive is to simply ask. Hershey’s Chocolate does this exceptionally well on their email subscription page.
They require only the most basic information…
and then leave the important choices of which emails to sign up for up to the subscriber:
You Can Do This With Your Web Form, Too!
Your potential subscribers are accustomed to making choices both on and offline, and they’re used to having things their way. After all, they can customize everything from their cars and coffee drinks down to the sneakers on their feet online with Mini, Volkswagen, Starbucks and NikeiD.
Since they are used to the convention of customizing the things they are most interested in, your prospective readers will be way more likely to fill out your form when you offer preferences because they’ll feel like they are in control.
Decide What Messages You Want to Send
This might be as simple as breaking up your content into a monthly newsletter, a weekly special and a daily deal. Or, your content could be entirely different for each choice, but that will depend on your business offering.
Regardless, you have to commit to sending these messages, so don’t give yourself an impossible workload. Choose a manageable number of messages that you can easily keep up with without becoming overwhelmed.
Create a Web Form with Checkboxes for Each Message
Each field on your form will represent a different email. This way, when the selection comes in with a new email sign up, their preferences are saved in your account and you know exactly which emails they want to receive from you.
Save a Segment for Each Email
With the choices saved as fields in your account, you’ll then create segments that automatically update whenever someone is added to your list.
When searching for fields that were added via checkbox, you must enter “yes” to indicate that the box was checked.
Send Specific Messages
As sign-ups start rolling in, you’ll send your separate messages only to those subscribers who checked certain boxes when signing up.
This way, readers will get what they asked for, and your content will be right on target and true to what they requested from you.
Will You Try This Tactic?
By offering a few simple preferences, your email campaign will be more professional and customizable and your website visitors will be happy to subscribe to it because they can control what they’ll be receiving.
Let us know if you’ve tried this before, or what kind of response you get when testing it out!