Winning a customer is very similar to finding a partner. At the start, we take the time to get to know one another, to find out what makes the other person tick as we maintain our best behaviour to win the other’s heart. However, as Sarah-Jane Stratford, executive strategy director at ais London points out, the tendency then is to slip all too easily to that stage where the grey underwear starts appearing on the radiator.
“Email marketers need a date-night attitude to keep their relationships with customers alive,” she says.
“Just think of all the effort you put in to winning a customer and getting permission to talk to them. It’s like those early days of dating where you’d dress to impress, put your make-up on and you’d get to know one another. As soon as you drop that level of effort, you find you’re not bothering so much and you end up watching the game on the sofa in your pants.”
False Sense Of Security
To Stratford’s mind, this is exactly how email marketing descends in to a seemingly endless tirade of brands talking at customers who only appear engaged because they cannot be bothered to unsubscribe.
“Everyone starts out with good intentions and will typically aim to get an email out every week packed with whatever it is they want to say,” she says. “After a couple or three weeks, though, you’ve run out of things you want to say and you just end up talking at your customers, regardless of whether what you have to say is something you think is relevant to them and they may find interesting. So many people do it, it’s such an easy trap to fall in to.”
The reason that this is a trend that many will recognise, yet are unlikely to have done much about, is that email marketers can lull themselves in to a very false sense of security, Stratford maintains.
“Brands think they’re doing okay because unsubscribe rates are really low, but it’s nonsense,” she says. “It takes a lot of effort to unsubscribe and it’s virtually impossible on a mobile so people can end up ignoring you and the worst thing is, you might not realise if you’re only looking at unsubscribe rates. Even open rates can fool you because people may have emails opening up as they scroll down deleting them.”
Know Your Customer
The answer, then, is to keep that first-date fascination going and to ensure that you not only have something to say, but also that you have made the effort to ensure it’s something the customer wants to hear.
“You have to get away from just sending out an email every Friday at 11 a.m., or whatever your routine is,” she says. “You have to instead get to know your customers and find out what they might be interested in and then tailor your message around what you have to say that is also interesting to people you want to say it to. Don’t always presume email is the right channel, it might be something you can achieve elsewhere. The message should come first, you can’t always put the channel first and just keep pumping out emails whether they’re of interest or not.”
We’re Good, Right?
For anyone wondering how their brand or agency is doing on this, it’s a good idea to ask a simple question: "Are we just going through the motions?" Or have you done the email equivalent of getting dressed up and putting on your make-up? If not, it’s time for date night and getting reacquainted with what the customer wants.
If you need any more prompting on why this is important, the warning from Stratford is that every sector is wondering if it will have an Uber moment.
“It’s the digital start-ups who come in totally focussed on understanding the customer who do well in digital marketing,” she says. “Nobody wants to be the dinosaur that an Uber replaces. So the best way to protect yourself is to be someone your customers actually want to get messages from. That comes from the right tone and being human, but it also comes from clever understanding of data that knows what’s likely to be of interest and where you left off the last conversation.”
Brands that keep on pumping a “homogenous lump” of emails each week or month, will little thought as to what customers would find useful, are the ones that need to be most on alert, Stratford warns.