How to Dominate Email Marketing in a Post GDPR World
Most marketers have it backwards when it comes to email marketing. Many marketers believe once they’ve got someone on their email list that now they’ve gotten the person’s consent to SELL, SELL, SELL! That’s the complete opposite of what you should do. The first two or three emails you send to someone are the ones that often determine whether the person will stay engaged and actively read the things you send them. First impressions matter.
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You need to be providing value, not going for an ask. In fact, at MGR, we do almost no direct selling through our emails, seriously it’s rare. A good rule of thumb is 90/10. Send 90% value – and I’ll discuss what value means below – and 10% asking for something. Meaning 9 out your 10 emails should be solely sent with the intention of delighting the person, and nothing else.
That’s how you build a strong email list where your unsubscribe rate is near zero, and your open rates are double the industry average. It’s all about building brand loyalty and trust. No one trusts salesmen because you know they only want your money and they don’t actually care about you. We all know that feeling, yet so many of us fall for that trap when it comes to our own businesses and marketing efforts.
And the recent implementation of GDPR exposed this fact. That the majority of marketers were providing little or no value to their subscribers which resulted in many email lists shrinking by 80-90%.
How to Actually Provide Value
The next question then is naturally, “Okay that makes sense, so how do I provide a lot of value to my email subscribers?”
This varies A LOT by what your business does, and the reason why the person subscribed in the first place. But I’m going to give you some general ideas and actual case studies from us and our clients.
A quick side note: The case in which you can actively sell – and by selling you’re actually providing value – is when people sign up for special offers and discount updates, or to be told about new offerings. And that’s great, that can be a conversion machine for you because the person is asking you to sell to them, so go for it. But, that’s only if the person signed up for that specific reason. If they signed up expecting valuable content, and they get bombarded with special offers then they’re going to be pissed off. So, that’s the only case in which you mostly selling through your emails is okay, and even then, I would still send valuable content every now and then too.
Value generally comes in two forms: utility or entertainment (or even better, a mixture of both). For most businesses, utility is going to be how you bring value because you’re providing a product or service that solves a problem. If you’re B2B like ourselves, then you can send emails similar to how we do. We send a digest that has myriad of different content, many times it’s articles we’ve written (and we often write articles in direct response to client questions and feedback) or podcasts that are informative, sometimes we’ll send a video that provides insight on an interesting concept or useful tool.
You don’t have to only send fully expanded content like articles or podcasts, it can simply be a two-sentence quick tip, or an interesting question. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous and push the boundaries of “formal” content. One thing I actually have planned for an email I’m sending out soon is just my Spotfiy “Work Flow” playlist because I know I’m always looking for good, but non-distracting music to work to. And even though that has nothing to do with any service or product we sell, it’s just something fun that people might like.
Always send emails with the user in mind, and with no expectations of a return or sale. That’s why I advocate for completely splitting emails into two groups: value and sales. If I’m going to go for an ask then it’s going to be obvious and transparent, not mixed in the middle of something so I can trick them into reading my sales pitch.
Emails for B2C business are really no different. Everything is context dependent, if you sell plungers or hotel rooms or makeup it’s going to be different approaches, but it’s all based on the same principle of figuring out how to provide value.
If you’re selling makeup, then the obvious content to send would be makeup tutorials or new “looks” you’re team came up with (I’m not an expert on makeup but I think you get the idea). If you sell hotel rooms, you can take more of an entertainment approach. One of our clients, the Westin Grand Cayman, does this fantastically well by creating a vlog of themselves having fun in the Cayman Islands, and their customers LOVE it.
I can keep giving examples all day, but it’s context dependent on your business, so you’re going to have to come up with the creative aspect yourself or hire someone to do it.
An Extra Tip: Consistency. The best performing emails are ones that are predictable; whether it be monthly, weekly, daily, or twice a week. Having a consistent schedule does two things: makes email subscribers look forward to what you’re going to send them, and doesn’t fill their inbox randomly, annoying them. It’s okay to send an email off schedule every now and then if it’s something unique, but try to stick to something consistent because it generally leads to a better subscriber experience.
Time for the Sale
Now, let’s talk about the sale email since I know that’s all any marketer really cares about in the end, I get it. The sales email is simple, especially if you follow the 90/10 formula. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t disguise the email headline as something else, just make it clear what you’re asking for. And when you’ve consistently given lots of value through previous emails, the person has already been processing the idea in the back of their mind of whether or not they’re going to buy from you, now you’re just asking them to decide.
There are a few types of sales emails, the most common is “We think you might be interested in our product or service X, we’ve decided to give it to you for 20% off”. Or it can be less of a direct sale, and something along the lines of “We just unveiled a new product/service that does X, would you like to learn more.” It can be a non-monetary ask too, like saying “You’re subscribed to our newsletter but are you following us on Instagram?” if you want to build even more of a customer relationship.
And that’s it, there’s nothing too complicated about the sales pitch when you’ve already built the relationship and brand equity with the customer. Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still test out different sales copy, images, buttons, etc. like you always do with any landing page or sales attempt, but remember to be clear and concise.
Future regulation is unpredictable, but customer relations are simple. Go the extra mile to always provide more value than what you’re asking for and you will win.