Smart Marketing Starts with Permission
by Ellen Williams, Constant Contact
If you're sending promotions to people who aren't interested in your offers, you're wasting your efforts and making yourself look like a spammer. Here's how and why you should get permission from your subscribers.
Image source: Photospin.com
In my last article I discussed what I consider to be the fundamentals of email marketing. Now I’d like to focus on one of the most crucial of those fundamentals: permission-based marketing.
It comes down to this: Do you want to be known as a successful business owner that truly listens to customers and respects their privacy - or would you rather be labeled as a prolific spammer? The answer is easy. A smart marketer knows that when you continue to flood other people’s inboxes with messages that they see as junk mail, you’re doing a huge disservice to your reputation. Still, millions of unrequested emails are sent every day, only to sit idle in inboxes, spam filters, and trash bins. It serves as a critical reminder of how important it is to get your customers’ permission before adding them to your email marketing list. Permission-based email helps you develop stronger ties to your customers (which results in repeat sales and positive word-of-mouth), as well as better open rates, fewer spam reports, and is generally more effective.
So how can you get permission and elevate your content to “must read” status? Here are some tips for earning and keeping the right to email customers.
Get the right subscribers
Odds are that you’re making it easy for customers to join your email list—tactics like simple sign-up forms on your website, inserting social sharing tools in your email and newsletters, and putting a physical sign-up sheet by the till. So to take things up a notch, and find more people who truly will want to receive your emails, consider some of these ideas:
- Highlight what’s in it for the customer. When asking a customer for permission to add them to your contact list, be sure to focus on the benefits they’ll receive, like insider deals, invitations to private events, access to VIPs, and/or relevant and exclusive content.
- Tap into your customers’ network. Friends of friends who share the same interests are more likely to take you up on an offer when it comes through an existing customer who is also getting a deal on your products or services.
- Present a special offer to new subscribers such as rewards points. This helps you more effectively engage the customers that are most likely to return. It also eliminates the issue of attracting short-term customers that quickly opt-out after they redeem the offer.
Once you have them, keep your subscribers engaged
It’s more important to be a great listener than a great writer when it comes to creating content for your email and newsletters. When you present information that customers actually want, they’re more likely to respond and share it. Three ways to do this include:
- Share your valuable expertise. Nobody else has the same experience and perspective that you bring to your business. When you combine that with your passion for what you do and match it up with customer interests, you’ll find that your content is original and in demand. This, in turn, boosts subscribers and sales.
- Segment for more targeted messages. Divide your list into different categories such as demographics, interests and recent purchases and then present relevant and targeted content to the different groups. For example, a sporting goods shops’ newsletter may go to all customers, yet the lead article for one recipient could be about kayaking while another customer sees a cycling story.
- Analyze results. Look at your email results and customer responses on social media. This will tell you which content gets opened and shared and the topics customers are most interested in so you can do more of what works.
You don’t need the threat of steep fines and risk to your valuable reputation to up your email marketing game. Once you earn the right to contact customers and consistently provide relevant information and offers that can’t easily be found elsewhere, they’ll look forward to seeing your name in their inbox.
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Ellen Williams, Constant Contact Regional Development Director, New York and Southern Connecticut
Ellen has over 20 years of technology and marketing experience and has presented to over 4,000 small businesses, nonprofits, and associations. Her advice on best practices help organizations understand how to build great customer relationships that inevitable grow their businesses.