Email marketing is a two way street

by Cinda Baxter on February 9, 2012

in internet, Marketing

Remember the relationship that was so one-sided, you finally woke up and bailed? (Nearly each of us had one, so don’t feel bad.)

Now ask yourself: Is that how I’m treating my customers? Do I communicate when I need something, but otherwise…not so much?

Last evening, I received an email blast from a local retailer, asking me to vote for them in a bridal magazine’s annual “Best of” competition, in two categories: Invitations and “Top of the Tiera” (which one assumes means “overall winner”).

My first thought was “Why? I’m not a bride, nor have I ordered invitations from you.”

My next (immediate) thought was “Besides…what have you done for me lately?”

(Yeah, there’s a song in there, I know.)

Not only was I being asked to vote as a customer of this particular store’s wedding invitation service (I’m not), but was being asked to do so after having heard nothing from the business in months…? years…? I’m having trouble recalling a single offer or newsletter of theirs since they moved into a new mall space ages ago (definitely heard from them then).

Can’t be that their mailings are landing in my spam folder, or this one would have too.

Which leaves an (unfortunate) option:
They reach out to customers when they need something…but not so much when it’s time to give.

Now, before anyone kicks me in the shins, I’ll be the first to admit keeping up with regular newsletters and blog posts isn’t my forté. Like most small business owners, my 12-15 hour work day is jammed to the gills.

That said…if I reach out to my audience, it’s typically to GIVE something. An update. An offer. A suggestion. A laugh. Something I hope they’ll find interesting and useful.

Rarely do I come at them/you with hat in hand, asking for something…and only when it’s necessary.

Does that mean it’s wrong to promote sales? Specials? Events? I mean after all, aren’t you, the business owner, asking customers to come and spend their money?

No, that’s not wrong. You’re offering readers something out of the ordinary that might benefit them, and you’re doing it at your expense (ie, discounted pricing, tea and cookies, free wrapping, etc.). It’s not a one-sided “You give us X, but get nothing in return” proposition.

We all need to remember “It’s better to give than receive,” then apply it to all forms of communication and relationships—even the digital ones. If you find yourself wanting to ask customers for a favor, stop and ask yourself the following questions first:

1. Does my request actually apply to this customer?
Ex: I’m not a bride; I shouldn’t be asked to vote as one claiming to know who’s best in the category. That’s just stuffing a ballot box.

2. How many offers have I made to email customers the past year?
My rule of thumb is for every ten “gives,” you get one unrewarded “take.” Unless you can drum up ten emails from the past year, offering interesting or helpful information, unique value, specials, events, etc., you need to forget your current request, and start being a better boyfriend/girlfriend.

3. Are your previous emails truly filled with value for the customer…or just “Look at me! Look at me!” missives typical of a one-way relationship?
If all you’re doing is talking about what just arrived on the shelves, but not offering a unique value, offer, or service to newsletter recipients, the conversation is going one direction…and probably landing your emails in the trash folder without being read.

The bottom line:
If you’ve stayed in contact with customers, shared useful information, offered the occasional special, and continued to respect their busy lives by putting something worthwhile in their inboxes on a (fairly) regular basis, go for it. You’ve established trust, respect, and a healthy two-way relationship.

If you haven’t…start working on a newsletter chock full of perks and treats for your customers. Now. Before they break up with you.

Just like their face-to-face counterparts, digital relationships require energy, invested time, and a lot of respect. Get it right, and your customers will go to the wall for you.

Get it wrong, and…well...they end up writing a blog post.




Holly Myers February 15, 2012 at 11:59 am

Enjoyed this post!
Great information as always!

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