How to use email to make your customers
and your bank account! — love you
By Mitch Tarr
One of the greatest benefits of selling online is that you can offer far more personalized service than you’re normally capable of providing in a purely offline setting.
“…What?” you might be thinking. “How can you offer MORE personalized service on the Internet than when you’re selling to people face to face?”
The answer is deceptively easy: Email.
By offering valuable information in exchange for your visitors’ names and email addresses, you can build a huge list of potential customers and then use email to build a strong relationship with them over time.
When you have an offline business — without any sort of online presence to back it up — your only chance to connect with your visitors is when they come into your store.
But when you sell online, you can use email to communicate with your customers regularly, whether they’re at work, in a coffee shop with their laptop, or in the comfort of their own home.
However, there are five essential rules you need to follow in order to make sure your emails make your customers love you… instead of hate you.
(Because we all know what it’s like to receive unwanted emails from spammers whose only purpose for mailing you is to try to trick you to part with some cash. You DON’T want your potential customers to think you’re one of “them.”)
Rule #1. Respect your list
One of the greatest benefits of email is that it helps overcome buyer resistance by encouraging your subscribers to trust you.
But first, you have to prove you’re trustworthy!
You have to respect your list, and think more of THEIR needs than yours. And you have to meet their expectations by delivering what you promise.
For example, if they opt into your list because you’ve offered them a free report full of valuable information, make sure you GIVE them a free report full of valuable information — NOT a sales pitch.
Also, resist the urge to hammer your list with promotional emails every single week. The valuable “free info” emails you send should outnumber the purely promotional messages. Otherwise, your subscribers will opt out in droves.
Remember, the opt in is the first experience your future customers will have with your business. So you have to make sure it’s a positive one.
Rule #2. Get PERSONAL with your subscribers
People want to deal with PEOPLE, not faceless companies. So you DON’T want your emails to come off sounding like they’re official, corporate-sounding announcements.
In order to connect with your subscribers, your emails should be written in a casual, conversational tone.
Write like you’re talking to a good friend. Let your personality shine through.
If you’re a funny person, use humor in your emails. (Without being offensive, obviously.) If you speak with an accent, let that accent shine through in your writing. Include whatever characteristics make you, YOU.
It will help your subscribers feel like they know you…
… And that will go a long way to encouraging them to buy something from you!
Finally, in order to hammer home the point that your emails are coming from an actual person — as opposed to an organization — make sure the return address on all your emails has your name in it (i.e., firstname.lastname@example.org).
Whatever you do, don’t use an anonymous address like email@example.com — or even worse, firstname.lastname@example.org. They make your email sound way too impersonal, and will actually discourage people from opening and reading it.
Rule #3. Give first, get second
This is truly one of the cardinal rules of email marketing: In order to “get,” first you have to GIVE.
Never ask your subscribers to make a purchase unless you have offered them something of value beforehand.
For example, if you’re gearing up for a major promotion, it’s a good idea to send out a few “no strings attached” emails full of useful information and THEN follow them up with an email that includes a call to action.
The same thing is true of your newsletters. If you want to promote any of your products, make sure you include lots of free valuable information in the newsletter BEFORE you get to the product “plug.”
That way, people won’t mind so much if you ask them to buy something. After all, you’ve just given them a whole lot of useful content for free!
Plus, if your content really is valuable, it’ll convince your readers that your product or service is valuable, too.
Rule #4. Split-test EVERYTHING!
I’ll admit it: I’m an absolute NUT for testing.
But when most email software these days allows you to test absolutely every single aspect of your marketing efforts — so you can discover exactly what’s working and what’s NOT — why on Earth would you not take advantage of that ability?
When it comes to your email campaigns, I strongly urge you to test as many different elements as possible. These include:
- Your offer: Try testing different price points, different bonuses to go along with your main product, different product “bundles” — as many variables as you can come up with.
- Different segments of your list: Send the same offer to different segments of your list (e.g., your customers vs. your subscribers)
- Subject lines: This is the first point of contact with your audience. Your subject line has to grab their attention and encourage them to open your email!
- The email itself: Be sure to test different email messages to see which one encourages the greatest number of buyers through to your salesletter.
- Different calls to action: You never know what language is going to get your readers to click on your call to action! Maybe they’ll respond to a simple “click here.” Or maybe they like more casual language, such as “check it out by visiting…” Maybe they don’t need the URL written out for them — or maybe they do.
The only way to know for sure is to test different calls to action — and see which works best for you!
- Time to send: Which day of the week yields the best response? And which time of day? Will you get better results if you send on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. — or Sunday at 8:30 in the morning?
Once again, the only way to know for sure is to TEST.
Most email marketing solutions allow you to do this kind of testing. If yours doesn’t, it’s time for you to start looking for a new software package or service provider.
Rule #5. Follow the rules!
The rules I’m talking about here are the international laws that outline what emailers can and cannot do in order to avoid being labeled as spammers.
Some of the things you’ll need to do are…
- Include your physical address in every email
- Include easy-to-follow “unsubscribe” information in every email
- Remove your “unsubs” from your list within the required 14 days
- Remove all “hard bounceback” email addresses from your subscriber list
These are just of the few of the rules regarding email. If you want to learn more of them, go to: www.spamlaws.com.
There you’ll find everything you need to know about the CAN-SPAM Act, which regulates emailers who live in the United States, as well as the rules that apply to Europe and elsewhere.
One last thing: Be extremely wary of lists for purchase!
Often you’ll come across sites offering to sell you something like a list of a million names for the low, low price of $59.95.
Buying a list like this might seem like a good idea… but it’s not.
Chances are, the names and emails were taken without the people’s permission. So when your emails start showing up in their inbox, they’re going to think you’re a spammer, and may even report you to their ISP or an anti-spam organization like SpamCop.
Bam! Now you’re blacklisted and aren’t allowed to send email to anybody. Definitely not worth $59.95, is it?
Even if the people on the list DID give their permission to be put on it, the majority of them simply aren’t your target market, and won’t be interested in your offer.
And why go to the trouble of emailing someone who’s never going to buy anything from you?
All right… so those are my top five rules for smart email marketing.
Just remember, if you follow the rules and be a good “email citizen,” then you will be able to grow a responsive list of subscribers who will be eager to read your emails.
[Ed. Note: Mitch is IMC’s Vice President of Marketing.]