A recent spotting of this sign outside a restroom got us thinking; how can we build meaningful connections between employees and customers -- in places other than the bathroom? If the owners of public restrooms believe it makes a difference to let people know who services the space, could pushing employee involvement make a difference in email marketing, too?
We are always impressed with email marketers that drive engagement and conversation by putting a face on their brand. Apple consistently reminds subscribers about its in-store Specialists in email recovery modules, as the company does in this holiday email -- and other brands go further by featuring important minds behind the brands.
J.Crew's Jenna's Picks emails are some of the strongest examples, consistently featuring creative director Jenna Lyon and her fashion favorites. J.Crew has been so successful in building up subscribers' relationship with Jenna that anyone who regularly opens their emails will see just the subject line of this email -- "A message from our commander-in-chic" -- and know immediately to whom it refers. Ann Taylor takes a page from J.Crew with its Lisa Loves email, as does Madewell, with its holiday email featuring Alexa Chung's gift picks.
Other brands imply the conversation with actual people in less direct ways. In Sephora's recent, "Our favorite things" email, shoppers get the sense that their like-minded friends at Sephora have hand-picked perfect gift options. Similarly, Piperlime's recent email featuring "87 things we're obsessing over," invites subscribers to join in on the obsessions of Piperlime insiders.
Each of the brands we've mentioned consistently innovates creative ways to foster person-to-person relationships with their subscribers. But to meet the demands of today's increasingly social inbox, should marketers push this idea even further? We think it might be worth a shot. Here are some ways it could be done:
Start with the opt-in. What if you put a face on your email program right from the beginning, so that when subscribers sign up, they actually sign up to hear from a particular person? Your opt-in could read like "Get fashion updates from Dana" or "Get the latest technology news from Kelly." Your "friendly from" sender address could include the employee's name, and the whole email program would feel like a series of personal interactions.
Go beyond the inbox. Expand the presence of your email persona beyond the confines of the inbox and onto social networking sites. How powerful would it be if subscribers who clicked on J.Crew's Facebook link were invited to befriend Jenna Lyon for J.Crew, rather than just the J.Crew brand? By pushing employees to the forefront of both email and social presences, brands would create a seamless, personal experience for loyal subscribers.
Make it local. Even huge retail brands could foster a more personal, localized relationship with subscribers through segmentation. Include a module populated with a picture and a quote -- testimonial or tip -- from a real employee from the subscriber's nearest store (or at least a store in the region). Subscribers could see faces they recognize from their local stores, powerfully demonstrating the ability of email to deepen their overall relationship with their favorites brands.
While these examples have been pulled from retail emails, highlighting employee voices could be just as effective (if not more so) for B2B brands, which often send to more intimate lists.
The most important point, as always, is to deliver relevant content. Any conversations initiated by your brand should be conversations that subscribers want to join -- and involving employees in your messages could be a powerful way to initiate such conversations.