Formula For Email Success: Help Three Times, Sell Once

How helpful are you to the people you expect to be readily engaged with your brand? That’s the key question Miles Fryer likes to ask companies that ask for his email-marketing advice. Many will avoid his question because they think by hitting the industry average of a 20% open rate, they are doing fine. But analytics can be deceiving, he warns.

“We hear all the time from companies that have this one-in-five open rate in their head,” he says. “I have to warn them straightaway that they should be aiming to beat that because some of those opens will have been automatic and so count for very little. The true measure of success is how many actually click through to go to the site and deepen their relationship with the brand.”

Fryer’s advice to brands is that 20% is only a notional average because there are so many awful campaigns that drag down the average of what a good campaign should look like. If you have an engaged audience and you’re talking to them in the right way, he claims you should be getting above 20% open rates and then, of those opening, a similar 20% or more clicking through to a, hopefully, compelling landing page on the Web site.

The key, he claims to those moving towards these seemingly high goals, is to take a step back and realise that the one way a brand can stand out in the clutter of the average customer’s inbox is to simply be helpful.

“Everybody talks about the sales funnel, which pre-programmes them to think they need someone to download something and then email them a couple of times per week until they progress to the next stage,” he says. “It can lead to a lot of email clutter and lots of information that just isn’t relevant. Instead of pushing all the time, you need to think how you can truly be helpful to your customer base.”

Free And Useful
While most marketers will think this is a good excuse to offer something to download in the hope they’ll get a few more customer details, Fryer really does mean helpful. And by that, he insists the ‘thing’ has to be free. That’s why tips and insight are the best areas to think around. His advice is that a brand needs to be helpful around three times to every one time it overtly tries to sell a customer something.

“I always suggest brands think of something they can do for low cost or none that will really help the customer,” he says. “A lot of the time this will be three tips in three emails before you try to sell to them once. If the free content has done its job, then they’ll be far more receptive and far more likely to convert. A lot of companies don’t think they have anything to offer but I was chatting to a roofing company the other day and we came up with tips they could offer their email list on things like clearing out gutters or avoiding leaves getting in to their guttering.

“The next step might be to offer a free or very-low-cost mesh to stop the problem. Then when it comes to the customer needing your service later on, you’ve bought that piece of real estate in their minds where you’re considered helpful and they’re far more likely to buy from you.”

The key, Fryer insists, is to find the right language that resonates with your key audience or audiences. Retailers could offer tips around the products they sell, such as home-furnishings guidance. Or, often, there may be a totally separate area to occupy, as Barclays Bank has done recently.

“The advice they offer to Millennials around getting their social-media profiles employer-friendly and how to act at job interviews is priceless,” he says. “It’s a great piece of lateral thinking because the recipients are going to welcome the advice. And guess where they’re going to open up their account when that advice helps them to land the job they’re after?”

One radical extension to this is to be helpful to people you appear, so far, unable to have helped. If someone isn’t interacting with your email marketing at all, Fryer suggests the best advice is to email them and ask politely if they want to stay on the list. Alternatively, a polite message saying you’ll be taken off the list in a week’s time unless you ‘click here’ to remain can be a way of appearing both helpful to potential customers as well as reminding them that you exist. If they elect to go, your email list has been tidied up. If they decide to stay, they’ll remember you as a polite and responsible brand that didn’t want to waste their time.

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