February 5, 2013

Golden Rule of Email Marketing

Golden Rule of Email Marketing

How to increase your email open rates and minimize unsubscribers.

By Patrick Mahan

Email marketing is one of the most effective and personal forms of marketing.


Because not everyone reads your industry's publications looking for your ads. Not everyone watches television at the time you run your commercials. Not everyone listens to the radio or drives past your billboard. Not everyone subscribes to your blog's RSS feed or checks your Facebook Page or visits your website each morning. But ... everyone checks their email inbox.

And that's why email marketing is so powerful. However, as they say, "With power comes responsibility." And your responsibility is to NOT wear out your welcome.

The Eblast

One of the hottest trends in marketing today is the "eblast." And apps such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it super easy to send mass emails to your list with just a few clicks. They are easy to use and for the most part, cost little to no money. But because of the ease of use and low cost, email marketing is often abused.

Before sending an eblast, do you carefully scrutinize your list, making sure this particular email is relevant to EVERY person on the list? If not, you're taking a huge risk. A risk that could lead to people clicking on the big "opt-out" or unsubscribe button that is required by law to appear at the bottom of every eblast.

Once they push that button, you have lost them forever. So I encourage you to think about this ... Every time you send an eblast, you are asking the recipient for a favor. You are asking them to open and read your email. And once they read it, there's a good chance you're asking them for another favor ... to take some sort of action that benefits you more than them.

What happens when someone repeatedly asks you for favor, but never returns the favor? Eventually, you start to ignore and avoid that person. You dread seeing them because you know they're gonna ask you to do something for them. And you know—based on past experience—they have little or no intention of doing something for you in return.

Same goes with mass emails. Once you adopt the mindset that every email you send is like asking for a favor, then—I hope—you begin to feel obligated to find ways to start returning the favors. How?

The 80/20 Rule

A good rule of thumb is to apply the 80/20 Rule, where 80% of your email correspondence is crafted to GIVE value to the recipients without trying to make a sale. As you give value, you build trust and rapport. And as a result, they'll become much more receptive to the remaining 20% of emails you send asking for something in return.

Remember: Give your audience so much value up front that they feel obligated to at least listen to and consider your offer when it comes time to ask. This is the Law of Reciprocity in action. And reciprocity makes the world go 'round!

But the key is to establish trust and build rapport before asking for anything. 

You know, sales and marketing is really no different than any other social interaction. Would you walk up to a girl at the bar and shout, "Can I get your number?" You could, but how well does that work? And if it does work, what are the chances of it blossoming into a meaningful, long-term relationship?

Sales and Marketing works the same way. And most salespeople and marketers make the same mistake as the creep in the bar. They interrupt people and shout in their face, "Hey, would you like to buy my product?"

No! You've got to wine and dine them a little first. Prove your value. Prove that you are trustworthy. Don't interrupt them (timing is critical). And always give more value than you expect to receive.

Now here's a checklist. Make sure every email you send meets the following criteria:

  1. Valuable
  2. Personal
  3. Timely
  4. Relevant
Valuable: Does your email contain something (a product, a service, a coupon, information) that will truly benefit the recipient?

Personal: If your email begins, "Dear Valued Customer" you lose.

Timely: People are busy and preoccupied. They value their time and don't like when others waste it. If you send them a coupon for Christmas trees in August, there's a good chance they won't open your next email. On the flip side, a new home owner may appreciate a coupon from a plumber or lawn service.

Relevant: Our inboxes are already overloaded. Don't add to the clutter. Review your mailing list and make sure you're sending emails to the right people. People that can actually benefit from your offer. If you own a landscaping company, you're not gonna go door to door in an apartment complex offering your services. Yet, many email marketers make just as a big a mistake when sending irrelevant emails to the wrong people.

Bottom line ... people appreciate emails from those they know, like and trust. Emails that are truly valuable, personal, timely and relevant.

So if your emails are generic, poorly timed, irrelevant and are aimed at EXTRACTING value from your audience rather than creating and GIVING value to your audience, then don't be surprised when people start opting-out. Fast.

And once they unsubscribe, you've lost their trust—and possibly their business—forever.

Like most things in life, email marketing boils down to one thing. The Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated. Give people something of value, be respectful of their time, and don't use email as another platform to yell at people about things they really don't want to hear about.

What are your thoughts? How carefully do you scrutinize your list before hitting SEND? What have you done to increase your email open rates and minimize the number of unsubscribers?

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