If emails are white noise, you’re doing them wrong

You know that feeling when Facebook tells you it’s your friend’s birthday half an hour after you’ve already written on their wall? It’s pretty annoying to get pointless notifications, isn’t it? But it also leaves you feeling that they should already know you have. It ends up looking like a much more basic approach than it should be.

And that’s a problem with a lot of communication. You can gather all the data and automation in the world, but if you don’t add any human thought to it, then it underwhelms and loses its value to the customer. Which is a shame for emails in particular, where the size of the prize is potentially huge (the median email marketing ROI is 122% according to eMarketer)

The “white noise” in your inbox is the underwhelming, wallpaper emails that you probably get with frequency but that don’t do anything to convince you to interact with them or the brand that sends them. Bland is not where you want your brand to be. So, here are five ways you can bring a bit of colour and timbre to your emails – particularly during an unprecedented surge in internet use (up 30% according to Vodafone):

1. Don’t invest more money – invest more time

Moneysupermarket is a great example of a brand which has spent much more time thinking about its communications, sent fewer emails in response, and got better results. It’s not always about investing more in an email programme, just investing more time in thinking about and planning it.

2. Start with the effect you want to have

One of the ways brand emails slip into the realms of white noise is by following a very linear path with emails: “we’ve got new products – let’s tell the world about them”.

Or they might spend too much time looking at a plan for a year in one go, filling slots, and end up scrapping around for content: “what can we send this segment at the end of October?”

The starting point actually needs to be “what do we want customers or potential customers to think, feel or do at the end of the year? And what effect do we want it to have on our business?” A monetary effect is an obvious one, but objectives can also include brand-building.

3. Not every brand could (or should) be like Amazon

Amazon are undeniably big email communicators (in the US, Amazon owns a massive 30% market share in e-commerce according to Vero. I’m not saying Amazon has got their strategy wrong, but not every brand is Amazon.

Not every business has that level of data around their customers, what they browse for, what they buy. And not every brand has the breadth of products they can cross-sell effectively.

If the sole goal is to keep going until a customer buys, then Amazon’s strategy is working. But the power of the Amazon approach is often reminding people they need to buy something else from Amazon, rather than the product in the email. Think about your customer journey and if you’re not Amazon, don’t use theirs as a blueprint.

4. Try the pub test

Keep your eyes on the prize. Each time, there should be a value exchange for the customer or prospect. What are you asking them to do, and what’s in it for them? If in doubt, think about the pub test. You’re talking to your mate over a pint (in the good old days when we could!) – you ask him to give you his email address and tell him all the cool sh*t he’ll get if he does. Would that convince him?

There’s a lot more to email than a quick lever to pull in the quest to sell more. Even if sales are your key objective, blanket “white noise” emails will do more harm in the long run, than good.

5. CRM in the time of COVID-19

As I’m writing this, the world has gone into lockdown for who knows how long and the one thing people can’t do is be targeted for a quick buck. The doors are now closed. But CRM (and especially email) provides the perfect channel for continuing to communicate with your audience. To do this effectively, however, understanding all that I’ve talked about above is vital. You have to understand the role you would normally play in a customer’s life and then transition that away from sales and into authentic value.

I believe this will make us all better at understanding how people really perceive our brands, enabling us to communicate with them on a more human level once things go back to ‘normal’.

Article originally appeared on PerformanceIN on 08 April 2020