One of the cardinal rules of social media is “be human”, which is general advice suggesting that companies interact with their customers using a human voice and personality, rather than a faceless, monolithic voice of an organization.
Isn’t it amazing that the same advice is rarely, if ever, suggested in the much more deeply personal medium of email? Isn’t it the truth that most of the email in your inbox right now is so highly impersonal, so valueless that you delete most of it without even reading it?
Let’s transform that advice to email marketing now: be human. After all, an email is generally a reasonably private thing, and more importantly feels like a private things, whereas a Facebook wall is inherently with more than one person at a time, and Tweets seem to be on display to the entire world.
What does be human mean in the context of your email marketing? How do we translate a working strategy in social media to email marketing? Here are 6 ideas to consider:
1. Decide what you want your company’s brand to inspire in terms of feeling. When people hear from you and the problems you solve, what feelings should they inspire? Mitch Joel loves to cite the Harley Davidson brand, which lets a 43 year old accountant get dressed up in black leather and ride through a town and have everyone be afraid of him. The WhatCounts brand, if we’re doing our jobs right, should provide a sense of eagerness, eager to learn, eager to try out new things, eager to find and grow your email marketing ROI.
2. Speak with a dedicated, focused voice. Your newsletter may have multiple authors working on the content, but put a voice behind it, something that has a particular tone and tenor that matches your company’s brand. If you’ve decided to be professional, then photos of your staff in your newsletter pitch-drunk at the latest company gathering might not fit. If you’ve decided to be casual, then having starched collars and three-piece suit photos wouldn’t fit either. Your voice, your imagery, everything, should reflect what you’ve chosen to be.
3. Pick a persona and use it. This can be an actual member of your staff, or it can be a fictional construct. If you choose the latter, clearly define its personality and how it will behave. This persona should be who your emails are from, and should be a consistent presence in email, on the website, and in social media.
4. Be consistent in your content. People love predictable and routine. If you look at the WhatCounts GameChanger newsletter, we have the same general, predictable layout each week, which lets longtime readers skip over the parts they may not be interested in. For example, we have a jobs section each week. If you’re not looking for a job, you know it’s safe to skip over. Equally important, publish regularly and predictably. We humans are creatures of deep habit. Whenever I’m speaking publicly, one of my questions I ask the audience is when Seinfeld was on. 15 years later, people still remember, because it was valuable content published at a predictable time.
5. Add value and give first. Unless you go to a lot of Tupperware parties, generally speaking, your friends and colleagues don’t try to sell you something all the time. You shouldn’t either. Chances are, your actual friends look to do nice things for you first and unsolicited. Treat your subscribers as well as your friends, and offer value first in your email.
6. When you do sell, pitch personally. Instead of having the generic press release or standard sell in an email, look at using your persona’s social capital to make a personal pitch every now and again. Avoid the usual canned pitches and try a personal approach – see if you get better results!
These 6 ideas are just the start of transforming your email marketing program from just another ineffective advertising medium into a true communications channel that delivers value to both you and your subscribers. Try it today!
Christopher S. Penn
Director of Inbound Marketing, WhatCounts