Email: Five Ways To Cut The Clutter
EMAIL MARKETING, AS WE KNOW IT, IS FINISHED. I got this, in my solipsistic way ("if I so conclude, so must you"), a year ago when I started unsubscribing from permission-based newsletters.
Lately, I am cutting subscriptions like mad. All of which begs a question: If email marketers like myself no longer want to receive even a modicum of permission-based email, how do the digitally unscrubbed masses feel?
In order to grasp today's "I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-opt-in-anymore" renegade, I probed the reasons behind my aversion. Perhaps by heeding this intel, we who make our livings promising a world of ROI can resuscitate email's effectiveness as a marketing tool.
1. Market unto others as you would have them market unto you. If you wouldn't like how, and how often, you received your emails, why should they? Err on the side of brevity, infrequency and wit. It's like courtship: Make them miss you.
2. Savvy consumers believe that if they really need the info, they can find it through search. Solution? Deliver content that is impossible to find anywhere else. But be honest. Search makes liars of us all.
3. There is a limit to the number of emails I can stomach from even the most desired sender. For me that magic number is once a month. This is a problem for clients with fast-changing event horizons. Solution? Double opt-ins: The first for the newsletter (a monthly missive, and not more!), the second for a weekly e-blast in which you can extol the highlights of that week. Ask your readers how often they want to receive your emails, and then back off from even that number. They will thank you by not indiscriminately hitting the spam button.
4. Cultivate emotional resonance. If I hear from a sender more than once a month, I want the communication to be directly relevant to my needs. As an exercise, cancel all your email subscriptions. Think about how you feel each time you hit "unsubscribe." This exercise will show you those emails you can't live without. Find those fans that feel the same about your product, and purge the rest.
5. Get personal, pronto. Those of us who pre-date the Internet know that nothing closes a deal like personal touch. To make email marketing work for our clients, we must tailor it to flesh and blood people, not just "eyeballs." And that means getting personal.
We launched Monk:The Mobile Magazine in 1986 out of a Ford Econoline van. Even though we were "dashboard publishers," with none of the money, production values or marketing mojo of our glossy-covered, perfume-scented magazine brethren, we had something our peers would have killed for: fanatically devoted subscribers.
How did we instill this level of brand zealotry? The personal touch. We personally answered letters to the editor. We wrote about readers' travel suggestions. And we made them active partners in the content creation about their city. Most important, Monk was deeply personal. Perhaps too personal. (Word to the wise: Don't date the fan base.)
There are, of course, pitfalls to the personal touch. For example, don't trust what your client says about their potential buyers. I learned this the hard way with Apryl Miller, an exuberantly colorful psychedelic folk artist on New York's Upper East Side. We designed Miller's site, created content (a DVD) and were marketing both. Miller's two children attended a private school in her neighborhood. Miller thought the school's parents would be a natural target for emails about her art and incredible live/work space, which is featured regularly in Open House New York.
Not the case. By merely sending a permission request to the parent list (which included several NYC luminaries, whom, we surmised, might be natural buyers of Miller's high-priced haute furniture), we overstepped a boundary. And we heard about it. In retrospect, we should have personally contacted a few parents before sending even the opt-in request.
Which is all to say that, if email marketing is to work again, we must slow down, get off the numbers treadmill, and drill down to our cadre of devoted brand followers (what Karl Rove would call one's "base") and discuss what matters deeply to them. You may only send communiqués to 10,000 people a month, as opposed to 100,000, but those 10,000 will be putty in your marketing maw. And they will communicate the beauty of your brand to the remaining 90,000. Why? Because you treated them like friends--not data.
Jim Crotty, co-founder of Monk Media (monk.com), a bicoastal/bipolar content, design and marketing concern, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.