Email marketing has a lot of benefits: You can communicate directly with your target audience, you can personalize them, and you can build long-term relationships with your customers. But this type of marketing is nuanced and requires a lot of planning and strategizing.
Luckily, here’s a nifty guide of best practices to get you started. You’ll still want to do thorough market research to identify your ideal buyer persona and craft content accordingly, but overall, you’ll have a smoother ride — and better results — if you follow this roadmap.
But first, let’s go over why you want to build good relationships with your customers in the first place. It’s about a lot more than simple common sense.
Once upon a time, people made a purchase and went on about their merry ways. You got what you wanted, the seller made a profit, what’s not to like? The problem with this approach is that it’s inefficient. Yes, you make your sale, but then what? Will that person come again next time they need something? Will you have to be like the proverbial hamster on a wheel to get more people through your door? Let’s break this down, shall we?
It Improves the Customer Experience
There are several stages in a buyer’s journey. While one person may have just realized they need a solution for a pain point, others are conducting research on their options, while a third group has their wallet in hand and is ready to buy. All of these steps require different approaches to meet their needs. And the only way to find out what those needs are is to build a relationship with them.
You can do this by collecting data as they move through your website. Are they a first-time visitor? Which pages are they spending most of their time on? Have they filled out any forms requesting additional information? If so, which type of information are they seeking? Have they made a purchase from you before?
Having answers to all these questions helps you improve their customer experience by guiding them along the way by suggesting XYZ readings, resources, products, or services.
It Fosters Customer Loyalty
When someone has a positive experience with your business, they are more likely to return as repeat customers. And the same is true if they don’t. In fact, people are willing to pay more for a product in exchange for good customer service. In addition, it’s more cost-effective for businesses to keep existing customers than to get new ones. So it behooves you to be intentional about coming up with ways to make your customers happy.
It Creates a Source of Referrals
How many times have you recommended a business to friends and family after a great experience? Even if you didn’t initiate the conversation, if one of them mentions they need something such a business provides, chances are you’re going to bring it up. This is crucial to keep in mind, since word-of-mouth is the most valuable form of marketing. People trust it more than any advertisement, and it costs nothing. Also, if a client or customer tells you how happy they are with your service, you can unabashedly ask them for referrals.
It Provides Valuable Feedback
When you regularly engage in conversations with customers, they are more likely to open up about their suggestions and constructive feedback.
Ok. So let’s get back to email marketing. How can you use this tool to build relationships clients wax poetic about?
Show Your Human Side
Presenting yourself only as a logo is impersonal — especially in a day and age when people are used to knowing more about the core values and relatability of a business. You can show this human side by letting contacts get to know you. You can share photos of your team, include staff celebrations in newsletters, highlighting your company culture, and show how your brand aligns with your customers’ values. Readers will get to know you better as you share things you have in common.
Send Personalized Communications
Greet them by name, send them content that’s relevant to them, suggest products based on their preferences and previous purchases. You can also send them free resources that you know they will find helpful, such as a link for a new eBook, templates, checklists, etc… The more you pay attention to what they want, the more helpful (and valuable to them) you become.
Celebrate Their Accomplishments
As you establish relationships with customers, you collect data from information they enter on website forms. You can also learn about business and personal milestones, depending on the goods or services you provide and conversations you’ve had with them. Keep track of all of it, and send them emails acknowledging big events.
Ask for Feedback
There are several ways to ask for feedback. You can ask them directly and they can reply to the email, or you could send customer satisfaction surveys or ask for a net promoter score (NPS). This lets them know that you value what they have to say. At the end of the day, keeping them happy is not only good email marketing best practices, it also makes good business sense.
Implement Actions Based on Feedback
Feedback is only valuable if you actually use it. Granted, there are people who complain just for the sake of complaining. But if they have a point, or if you notice a trend of people raising the same concerns and suggestions repeatedly, it’s time to take a closer look into your policies and improve them accordingly.
Get to Know Your Audience
Always give your audience what they want. This could be humor. This could be a conversational tone. It also means providing content in ways they prefer. Would your readers prefer long-form blog posts? Infographics? Videos? Audio content? Whatever it is, implement it.
Now that you better understand the value of establishing good customer relationships and how to use email marketing for that purpose, it’s time for the drumroll.
1. Segment Your Contacts
Use a customer relationship management (CRM) software that enables you to segment your contacts based on their categories. Remember how we discussed the buyer’s journey above? This is why this feature comes in handy. If First Time Freddy discovers your website today and subscribes to your blog, the marketing emails you send him should most definitely be different than the ones you send to Repeat Customer Rita.
2. Deliver On Your Promises
If you announced a product launch on such and such date, launch on that date. If you enticed people to join your email list by telling them you would send them regular valuable content, do so — and do so promptly. If your landing page states “we won’t spam you!” for heaven’s sake, don’t send them 432 emails a week with what you think are quirky stories.
3. Be Yourself
Develop a brand identity — a genuine one — and stick to it. Don’t try to be clever by including something you think they’d enjoy if it doesn’t align with your core values and what your company stands for. If your brand voice is funny and irreverent, use that in your emails. If you’ve developed a reputation for caring about XYZ, incorporate that into your business practices and marketing materials if relevant.
4. Get to the Point
If you have something to say, say it. Don’t beat around the bush or try to include five different topics within one email. Prior to launching your email campaign, define a specific goal. Is it to get more people to enroll in your webinar? Then craft content around that purpose and get out.
5. Keep It Brief
If your customers wanted to read a Tolstoy novel, they’d sit on their armchairs with Anna Karenina; not browse their inbox for a marketing email from you. Remember, you want to provide value. So add content that is helpful, tie it back to your business, include a good call to action, and move along with your day.
6. Provide Value
Ok. Here’s that piece of advice again. It bears repeating because it’s essential. One of the main reasons to launch an email marketing campaign is to nurture your leads. Ask yourself whether the content you’re crafting will be helpful to the reader. Whether it’s a checklist, template, listicle, or you’re showcasing a product’s feature, your north star should always be to make things easier for them. Being customer-centric always wins the game.
7. Don’t Try To Sell Something in Every Email
Yes, you’re in the business of selling, and you most definitely want to sell as much as possible. But that doesn’t mean that you should push for a purchase with every communication. This is where effective lead nurturing comes in. And yes, while all the examples in point number six can fall in this category as well, you can also send messages that are specific to a particular recipient — such as birthday, anniversary, and any celebratory communications. You can also send information regarding industry news, community events, and holidays.
8. Be Consistent
Out of sight, out of mind. If you have an inbound marketing campaign, you know that consistency is key. This also applies to marketing emails. Depending on your industry, once a week or twice a month could be enough. However, the best practice would be to include an option to update subscription preferences at the bottom of every email. This way, you’re giving your contacts control over how much content to receive while still remaining subscribed to your emails.
9. Do Not Spam Your Audience
Any messages that are sent in bulk run the risk of being considered spam. Therefore, there are certain practices you want to follow to avoid falling in that category. These include: using a reputable email service provider (ESP), only sending marketing emails to people who have explicitly given you permission to do so, and avoid spam trigger words on your subject lines, such as “Buy now!” “Make extra money... “, “As seen on…”, using all caps or excessive exclamation points.
10. Make It Easy for Your Audience to Contact You
Have a real person answer your emails. You can ensure no communication falls through the cracks by using customer service software that gathers all messages (from emails, website forms, and social media) and keeps them in one centralized location. Avoid using “do not reply” emails, and include your contact information in every communication.
11. Be Honest and Transparent
If you make a mistake, own it. If an order is going to take longer than anticipated, if a well-known team member has accepted a new job offer, if your business processes are changing in a way that affects customers, or hey, even if you somehow messed up, be transparent about it. It keeps your readers informed and promotes trust.
12. Make it Easy to Unsubscribe
This one’s not only about honoring your readers’ wishes. It’s also the law. The CAN-SPAM Act is a federal regulation that requires businesses to provide an unsubscribe option in all of their marketing communications. The penalties are hefty, too — $43,792 per each email that doesn’t include it.
Email marketing is one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind for your target audience. But always remember to provide as much value for them as it does for you.