The Three R’s of Email Marketing

Posted by Scott Cohen On November 18, 2010 in story time I One Comment

I like to say that one of the reasons why I enjoy email marketing so much is because every little thing is testable. I also enjoy the focus on data and how well data can be leveraged through email.

Today, though, I’m not going to give into tactics about testing or utilizing data. I’m going to go back to fundamentals a bit–specifically, the email marketer’s mindset.

To be a truly great email marketer, you have to understand three concepts: Respect, Relevance, and Recognition.

1. Respect

Respect your subscriber. Why? Because email is an opt-in marketing method. Your subscribers give you permission to send them email–the power of email marketing lies in its permission-based roots. (And, as they say in “Spider-Man,” with ‘great power comes great responsibility.’)

My good friend Andrew Kordek (of Trendline Interactive) wrote a great post about Respect:

Respect your subscribers. Respect them as consumers, as customers, and as real people.

Respect their privacy. Respect their choice. Respect the fact that they once took the time to register for your email. Respect that they are intelligent human beings who support your program.

If you give respect… you will get it in return.

Andrew takes the words right out of my mouth. Respect is everything. Never treat your customer like you’re doing them a favor by sending them an email. Don’t be in their face. And don’t overstay your welcome in the inbox.

If you respect your subscribers, you’ll earn trust. With that trust comes a greater likelihood that your subscribers will engage your with email messages. And more engagement likely means more sales (unless that’s not your email driver, of course).

2. Relevance

The best way you can respect your subscriber is to offer relevant messaging as best and as often as you can. What does that mean?

  • Understand what your customers want and need.
  • Realize that your email program should be about what your customers want and need, not about what you think they need.
  • Provide messaging that speaks to your customers’ wants and needs at all times.

The power of email marketing resides in your ability to provide your recipients with what they want. Here are a couple of ways you can do this better:

  • Build a Preference Center. Allow your customers the ability to decide for themselves what topics are relevant to them as well as the frequency with which they’d like to receive your messages. I know it’s a little scary, but the Preference Center provides you with data which you can use to your advantage. Trust me on this one.
  • Send Surveys. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your subscribers will tell you what they want. You can gather excellent data and optimize your email program accordingly.

3. Recognition

To be a good email marketer, you must:

Recognize you’re always on thin ice.
Scott Stratten of UnMarketing is known for saying: “It takes 1,000 tweets to build a reputation and just one to ruin it.” The same rule applies for email.

You’re always one message away from losing a customer. Remember that. Respect that. And make your messages shine as a result.

Recognize you don’t control what makes it to the inbox.
Hotmail, Yahoo!, AOL, Gmail, and now Facebook (though FB is just plain weird to me). These are the gatekeepers to your customer’s inbox. You develop a “sender reputation” based on engagement and input from your subscribers to get past the gatekeepers.

But know this: The gatekeepers don’t care about you. They only care about their customers (who, conveniently, happen to be your subscribers).

Recognize that email is part of the customer experience, but not the whole. Email does not exist in a vacuum. If your email message creates conflict with what your salesperson is saying (either a miscommunication or an unnecessary repeat of information), you could create a big disconnect.

Create the experience your customers want… and not just in your email campaigns.

If you understand these three concepts, it’ll make so much more sense when you start to work on everything else in email marketing. It’s not about you; it’s about your customer. Simply put.

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