A Conversation About Conversions

by , Apr 16, 2012, 3:58 PM
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I think just about everyone in email marketing has had the discussion (or should I say conversation) about conversation versus conversion. Is it about the conversation or the conversion? Certainly, if marketing doesn’t result in conversions, then what are we being paid for? However, as any top salesperson will tell you, a good conversation is often the first step to a sale -- and the best salespeople are as good or better at listening as they are talking.

I think it’s really a whole-process kind of thing. If we don’t want a conversation and the relationship it leads to, then why use email marketing in the first place? You could just try stuffing people’s mailboxes with flyers instead.

If we do believe that a conversation is a good way to at least engage subscribers, then are enough of us listening? Ask yourself how much talking you are doing with your email and online marketing and how much listening.

The power of the Internet offers brands the ability to involve consumers as never before. It actually provides the opportunity for your customers and prospective customers to contribute to a better product and better marketing. This isn’t something to be intimidated by, but something to embrace and leverage for greater success.

And let’s not forget about word-of-mouth, which starts with conversations. The value of WOM is growing thanks to social media and the web. People talk about the good experiences and the bad ones on any number of channels today. WOM may well be the most honest and effective form of advertising. No matter how good your marketing is, it won’t hold a candle to a good reference from a trusted friend. You can’t control those conversations, but you should definitely participate.

Every online channel today can be used for a two-way conversation and that interaction can cross multiple channels. Email is very good at bridging all those channels, too. Accessibility is extremely important, but the choice of how to interact with a brand should be up to the consumer. Keep all the lines of communication open and make sure that when someone does interact with you, they get a quick and thoughtful response. The worst possible thing you can do is tell people you are listening and then take so long to respond that they feel ignored. If at all possible, you want to respond the same day or faster depending on the channel. If you need time to investigate, then respond and let the person know you are on the case.

Using a “noreply” address in your email marketing is certainly one way to discourage conversations with your customers. It’s the equivalent of holding your hands over your ears and yelling “la la la la la” when someone is trying to talk to you. Of course, considering that email services such as Gmail rank emails based on what people do with them, a reply to your newsletter probably won’t hurt your inbox placement. And while there may not be a lot of hard data about the negative effects of a “noreply” email address, I don’t think I’m stretching it to say that this won’t create positive impressions.

You’ve got email! No, you’ve got a conversation or at least the option for one -- and when you have the chance for a conversation, you have the opportunity for a conversion.

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