Email marketing is easier when you know your lines
With the growth of email marketing services like Mailchimp and Constant Contact, a drip campaign has become essential. You can use them to build trust with potential customers, nurture current customers and automate your marketing. However, this strategy only works if it’s treated like one, and that takes planning and customer-focused motives.
A drip marketing campaign involves a business sending a limited number of emails to its customer email list. This can take place automatically or on a set schedule. These quick messages serve as a polite reminder of the business and its offerings, while striving to not overwhelm the customer with unhelpful junk.
Ben Poggemiller, co-owner of Urban Life Pools & Hot Tubs in Steinbach, Canada, says one of the worst things a business can do is bombard potential and current customers with sales messages, or only reach out to them when there’s a new sale happening: “One of the most important things about email marketing is having a very clear strategy,” he says. “Throwing out a promotional email, every once in a while, is not a good strategy.”
While Poggemiller recognizes that others may have different approaches, he shares that having a plan is what works for him and serves his customers best. “It’s never starting with, ‘What can I sell them today?’ It’s starting with, ‘How can I help people today?’ ” Poggemiller explains. “Because at the end of the day, what we really want is people to make a good decision, and they can’t make a good decision unless they have the right information.”
It’s never starting with, ‘What can I sell them today?’ It’s starting with, ‘How can I help people today?'”
Ben Poggemiller, Urban Life Pools & Hot Tubs
The “right information” isn’t just product facts or sales announcements; customers are gauging what kind of company is reaching out to them based on the words and images they encounter in their inboxes. Poggemiller believes that personal connection can be the difference between building a bridge or burning one.
Cole Taylor, owner of Southern Leisure Spas in Arlington, Texas, has been doing automation style campaigns for two years. Taylor advises against being too pushy or too salesy and reminds retailers that it’s about a relationship with a real person. “You’re not hitting them with a bunch of sales lingo right off the bat, you’re just trying to start a conversation with them,” he says.
As founder and CEO of SalesScripter, an app designed to help businesses develop advertising copy for marketing emails, Michael Halper has found the easiest way for a campaign to fail is for a business to make it all about themselves: “What the prospect cares the most about is not necessarily the bells and whistles of your product,” he says. “What they care about is what’s in it for them.”
Halper advises a structured approach to a messaging strategy: “Not just messaging for your emails, but the messaging for everything you communicate is critical,” he says. “Minimize how much you look like a business or a salesperson trying to sell something.”
Halper believes there are small things businesses can do to have a big impact, and one of those is choosing words wisely. “I believe the words that a salesperson says are their most valuable tools,” he explains. “It’s not just about sending out a number of emails or making a number of phone calls per day. It’s about what you’re saying, and it’s very easy to say the wrong thing.”
A Simple Drip Campaign
So, what should retailers do when they want to reevaluate or revamp their drip campaigns? A good place to start, according to Poggemiller, is a brainstorming session. “Take an hour out of your day, block it off so that nobody can bug you, and just think about, ‘What are the most common questions I get about hot tubs when I’m talking to people?’ ”
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He proposes that every 10 questions you think of can equate to 10 emails worth of content. And the content is where the relationship and trust starts. “You want to make sure you’re giving helpful information,” Poggemiller says. “And then just start brainstorming other pieces of advice that you would give people.”
The tone of an email can also be crucial to its effectiveness. “If there’s no personality to it, then why are people going to buy from you over someone else?” Poggemiller asks. “People like dealing with people — they don’t like dealing with something that’s very clearly automated, polished and corporate.”
Halper says there can be a time and place for more formal-sounding emails, but it depends on who the message is coming from. “The rule I use is: If you want the email to be from a person to a person, I like it to look like clean text, very simple with little formatting,” he explains. “If it’s from a business to a person, then I like it to be more professional, with better formatting.”
Halper also says retailers shouldn’t completely toss out product-related emails, they just need to be aware of their frequency and pace. “Think of content in two different categories — product content and informative content,” Halper says.
He advises retailers to not make all content pieces revolve around the product. Instead, retailers can alternate the kind of content sent based on the type of customer it’s going to. Marketing strategies should include identifying and categorizing customers, so retailers can better decide on format and content. “I like to organize content around benefits of the product or service and pain points that the product or service can resolve,” Halper says.
When retailers can focus on subjects and topics that help the customer, entire automations can be built around specific needs that make customers feel helped instead of nagged. “I get replies all the time saying, ‘Thank you for this information,’ ” Poggemiller says. “People are thanking me for the content I’ve been sending them.”
Poggemiller adds that being helpful builds trust, which can pay off down the line. “People respond with, ‘I’m not ready to buy a hot tub just yet, but when I am, I’m going to talk to you first,’ ” he says. Poggemiller also believes that an email’s subject line can be just as crucial as its content: “There are subject lines that work and those that don’t,” he notes. Often it comes down to trial-and-error testing.
Maybe right now is not a good time to get them in, but we’re just trying to give them free content and free information so that when they are ready to buy, we’re the first they think of.”
Cole Taylor, Southern Leisure Spas
For Taylor, his strategy involves multiple campaigns, and each addresses specific needs of customers. For example, when he first gets a lead, that email goes into a category where the potential customer receives specific information and follow-ups. If that person is deemed to be a cold lead, Taylor says their contact info is moved into a nurturing campaign, which can run about six to eight weeks. This person, Taylor explains, would then receive more educational information and emails that try to answer basic questions that customers may have if they were to come in-person to a showroom. “We’re just dropping one email a week, giving them tips and trying to earn trust that way,” Taylor says. Another component of a successful campaign is simplicity. Retailers should make sure email templates aren’t filled with too many graphics, images and HTML piled on top of lots of text. “If you get too crazy with HTML and CSS, it can cause some problems with spam filters picking it up,” Taylor says. “I think in a world where people get so many marketing emails, they become desensitized to crazy graphics.”
Taylor advises retailers to not let their layouts and designs become the equivalent of sending a webpage inside an email. “When you’ve got a one-sentence question like, ‘Have you ever owned a hot tub before?’ — nine words are easy to digest,” Taylor says. “It’s a lot less like we’re trying to sell them something and more like we’re there to help.”
Simple pieces of text written in a conversational tone, paired with one photo or video, or an image with a hyperlink, can be enough to stand out and keep customers on the lookout for the next one. Emails that have a personal touch to them can help customers recognize names, faces or even products before they step into the showroom. These kinds of emails can also save time during those in-person talks, because most of their questions have already been answered. “If they’ve been through all this, it saves so much time in the pitch,” Poggemiller explains. “I’ve already sent them all the information and answered all the questions that they would ask when they come into the store.”
Learn more about Email Drip Marketing
Watch this how-to video from Michael Halper, founder and CEO of SalesScripter: