Last week someone sent me an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. I “okayed” the request, and the next day, I had an email from this same person in my inbox, asking me to share all of my business needs with him. No relationship building, no trust, no foundation or even context for the conversation. It was the equivalent of being proposed to on a blind first date.
And since I was just about as creeped out as if it had been a proposal on a blind date, I responded appropriately. Deleted the email, told outlook to block future emails from this individual and un-connected on LinkedIn. The equivalent of changing my phone number and eliminating my blind date proposer from my social media networks.
It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last; my question is, how many times have you moved from introduction to proposal too quickly? How many times have you lost customers by being presumptuous – failing to understand what they really needed or where they were in the buying process? Or how many customers have you lost because you didn’t know they were ready to buy, and so never even extended an offer?
Developing communication strategies for each stage of the customer life cycle can greatly aid your ability to keep the relationship growing and keep your business on the prospect’s mind so that when they are ready to buy, ready to move, ready to try a new product or service—when they are ready to do business with you—yours will be the business to which they turn. And communications collateral can be the means by which your customers will refer friends and family to your business by passing on an email newsletter, coupon, menu or brochure.
While some business owners express doubt as to the return on their email marketing investment, and others worry about being perceived as spammers, email marketing is alive and well. And, done correctly, email marketing can have huge benefits to the bottom line. For instance, did you know:
- Email marketing produces one of the highest returns on investment compared to any other form of direct marketing. The DMA says that email marketing ROI was $40.56 for every $1 invested in 2011; compare that to the return on banner ads at just $2 for every dollar invested and keyword ads which produce a $17 return for every dollar invested.
- According to the email stat center, Epsilon studies found that 57% of respondents have more positive impressions of the companies that send them email, 40% say that simply receiving a company’s email positively impacts the likelihood that they will make a future purchase from that company, and 50% say they are more likely to buy products from companies that send them email, whether they make those purchases online or at a brick and mortar place of business.
- And email marketing is permission based. This should ease business owner’s fear of being perceived as a junk emailer. If your customer or prospect asks you to communicate with them via email, why should you be afraid to do so? All of the power rests with them: they can choose to delete your email or save it for later if they don’t want to read it right away, and they can unsubscribe at any time if your email newsletter isn’t something that adds value for them any longer.
Your brand is the sum total of an individual’s perceptions about your business (and you!). And email communication is one of the few customer touch points where you control most of the interaction in terms of what the customer or prospect sees, and where they are directed next with each and every email communication. And you can use your email communications to drive traffic to your website or webstore, your blog or even to outside sites which can further help to influence and educate your audience to do business with you.
Part of getting the prospect or customer to “choose you” when they are ready to purchase what you have to offer is educating them as to the benefits they will receive as a result of doing business with you. Email communications provide the forum for sharing these types of benefits as well as your mission, vision, customer bill of rights—all of the promises you make to customers about what they can expect to be true, each and every time they do business with you.
In 365 Days of Marketing, I make the point that intrigue is vital to turning prospects into customers and moving customers deeper into relationship with you. In order to gain mindshare among prospects, you must keep them interested in your business, even if they aren’t yet ready to buy. To return to the blind date analogy, it’s the equivalent of creating a desire on the part of the other person to want to know more about you—to be intrigued about what they don’t yet know or fully understand about your business, products or services, but want to find out.
It’s important to point out that creating intrigue on a first date isn’t done by proposing marriage; it’s done by omitting information – and giving your date a reason and the motivation to go out with you again and develop a relationship over time. It is during this relationship over time that intrigue leads eventually to relationship decisions, like buying, referring others and becoming a loyal customer.
When you provide useful information to prospects and customers in email newsletters and updates, you provide both the reason and the means by which they can refer friends and family to your business. For instance, something in your email newsletter might remind them that an acquaintance needs your products or services. And having an email in their inbox makes it incredibly easy for them to forward the email itself or a link to your online newsletter on to interested parties.
Though referenced throughout this article, remember that email is not a one and done marketing push, it’s about building relationships over time. Your email newsletter should have a combination of content that creates intrigue but also educates, communicates your values and customer promises and helps to build your brand, in addition to actually extending marketing offers to your readers.
One of the reasons that people choose to buy from you or feel comfortable referring a family member or friend to your business is because they trust you. They trust that you will treat them (or their referral) to a positive customer experience and they trust that you will provide them with the right solution. Trust is built over time and repeated interactions; and email can comprise those interactions. Use your email newsletter to communicate news, information and expertise to enhance your reputation and the reputation of your business and set yourself up as the expert in your field in the minds of customers and prospects.
The top reason that consumers subscribe to mailings and interact with businesses on social media is to receive special offers and discounts. Your subscribers expect you to email them and they expect (and want!) to receive valuable offers from you. Use your email newsletter to tell customers and prospects about current offers, or create special offers that are redeemable only by your email readers. In addition, you can use your email newsletter to tell people about what is new in your business and remind them about offers that will be expiring in the near future.
You can invite customers to events, ask them to refer others to your business, extend membership, VIP or other club type of offers and make any number of other calls to action meant to encourage your prospect or customer to move to a deeper level of relationship with your business. If you have openings for new clients, you can use your email newsletter as the means of telling your readers exactly “who” your business would be a perfect match for. You can provide education about your business, products or services that engage your readers not only intellectually but also emotionally and give them even more reasons to want to do business with you. You can tell them know about your commitment to the local community, local schools or local charitable causes. You can talk about the history of your company, your employees, your passions and a variety of other personal topics that will help them to connect themselves emotionally and to feel proud about identifying themselves with the brand of your business.
Before launching a new product or service or making changes to customer processes, you can use email to gauge interest ahead of time. This can help you to fine tune new offerings before they launch or even avoid costly mistakes, like investing in a product for which demand is not strong or making a change to the customer process that might make your customers upset or even leave.
While you may view email as a push marketing our outbound marketing tactic, it can be much more. It’s easy for people to respond to email—it takes very little time and no cost to do so. If you aren’t yet, you should be using your email newsletter not only to share information but to ask for information. Provide the means for people to respond directly via return email or links to surveys and questionnaires which can help you gauge everything from your customer’s level of satisfaction to what they like best (or dislike most) about your business, what they want that you don’t provide, what you do better than the competition (or vice versa). You can also ask readers for product or service reviews or testimonials or even for feedback that can be used to help improve the level of customer service you provide (or where you are falling short of customer’s expectations).
Email communications have a relatively low cost, especially when compared to other forms of outbound marketing. And they have been shown to produce a significantly higher return. And now you have 10 great ways to use email communications that you might not have thought about before—so what’s stopping you?
You can easily get started with an email service such as Constant Contact, and you don’t have to be a programmer or HTML expert to do so, since they provide you with easy-to-modify templates. If you sign up using the link above, you’ll get to try it out for free and receive a $30 credit. Alternatively, if you do want professional help, feel free to contact me for information about starter email marketing or overall content marketing packages and strategies.
Build a bigger role for your business in the lives of your clients—it’s going to be a great year!
Elizabeth Kraus is the author of 365 Days of Marketing.
365 Days of Marketing is the ultimate resource for business owners who need actual content in order to achieve their content marketing (blogging, social media and SEO) goals!
Available on amazon.com in print or digital format, it contains marketing how-to, inspiration and content for every day of the year — including all of the major holidays an much, much more to help you build a bigger role for your business in the lives of your clients, 365 days a year!