This week in his Power of Connection chat (#PoCchat), on the topic of email marketing, Bobby Umar asked this question: How did you feel when you sent your first e-mail newsletter or announcement?
How did I feel? Wow! My mind flashed back to the late 1990s and the moment I hit Send on my first email newsletter. I remember feeling this insane hope that my newsletter would be different. That I’d succeed where all those around me were failing. That my recipients would read my newsletter because somehow, magically, they’d recognize that it was a cut above all the others.
You might say I was a dreamer. And undoubtedly I was. But I wasn’t the only one.
Bobby’s question also brought me up short as I recollected how little I knew about content marketing at that time. I didn’t fully understand that my content needed to focus on the reader and not on my products and services. I didn’t understand the importance of developing relationships with my readers before I started lobbing content at them.
It all seems second nature to me now. But, looking back, I can see that I had the keys to this marvelous marketing machine — with barely a clue as to how to run it.
It occurs to me that there are people like that today. In fact, judging from the contents of my inbox, there are a lot of people like that.
So, for their benefit, here are four basics for email marketing:
- It’s not about you. I quickly learned, to my surprise, that people didn’t find my products and services as interesting as I did; that they wouldn’t read (and respond to) my emails just because I’d worked so hard to put quality content into them. This first basic principle has a corollary:
- It’s about the reader. I did a bit better when I couched things in terms of solving problems that were common to my audience. But I still didn’t have a firm enough grasp on who that audience really was and what problems they were trying to solve. Which leads to the third basic principle:
- You have to have a relationship. People will read emails from companies (and, ideally, from individual people) they know. They’ve met you at a trade show. They’ve attended your webinar. They’ve interacted with you on social media. They’ve bought from you in the past. Even then, you can’t ignore the fourth basic principle:
- You have to sustain the relationship with something more than just email. Your email marketing has to be part of an overall content strategy. Unless your readers find your content exceptionally valuable (there I go, dreaming again), if email is the only thing they see from you, they’ll soon start to hit Delete when they see your name. (An opt-out option is mandatory, by the way — and it has to actually work.)
Marketing is hard. Email marketing is especially hard, in large part because it has a bad rep. So many people have been doing it so badly for so long. Just because it’s hard, though, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.
What would you add to my four basic principles?