I’ve spent the last few months doing lots of personal travel and got on the mailing list for a number of online travel agencies and airlines. So this weekend, I went through my inbox and unsubscribed to a number of weekly, sometimes daily, travel emails but kept the one that stood out from the rest. Most of the travel companies treated me as a transaction – Sale, Special, Save, Book Now, etc.
These companies continue to use old-school interruption marketing of Plug and Pray – plug your brand over and over again and pray that I buy from you. The problem is my attention span is very short and I’m a Boomer – I can’t imagine how Millennials react to these kinds of emails. I actually go out of my way to subscribe to newsletters and distribution lists that add value to the things I’m interested in. The one travel agency that I did keep in my feed does exactly that.
World Nomads is a travel agency that sends me regular emails but most of the content is interesting and valuable with travel tips, stories of great travel adventure and community members’ experiences. Sure, they promote their tours from time to time but they’ve earned my trust to stay in my feed.
It’s time for brands to move away from transactional emails and take a more strategic content marketing approach to email marketing. Email is still one of the most important arsenals in the marketer’s toolkit but we’ve got to get better at nurturing our audience instead of hitting them over the head with our offers and promotional content.
Some tips for transitioning from transactional emails:
- Focus on the customer – know what your customers want or like. What is valuable to them? Yes, I want a good deal and competitive prices, but having the same promotional messages week after week in my inbox is infuriating. If I’m already a happy customer, don’t make me want to drop you from my inbox. Make me want to subscribe to you.
- Create content along the Customer Journey – If you’re constantly pounding away with specials and offers you’re only hitting the latter part of the sales cycle. The problem is I’m not always in the buying mode. By creating content along the customer journey you will have content that you can nurture me with and when I am ready to buy, you can move me down the funnel. Make sure you have the proper tools in place, such as Marketing Automation and content personalization, so that you can take action when I’m ready to buy. Follow the 4-1-1 Rule of Content Marketing – Popularized by Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute, the 4-1-1 Rule says to create four bits of content that the customer cares about, one that is soft sell and one that is more of a promotional hard sell. That’s a good cadence to keep me interested in what you have to offer.
- Create content that will make prospective customers come to you – How awesome is marketing when the customer searches you out instead of you having to always push it in front of them. Create content that is so compelling that customers will come to your site, social channels or join your community so they can consume, engage and share it. Great content can be repurposed across many of your communication channels including your email.
- Measure and Optimize: Define and track KPIs that help determine the health of your email program over time. What is your open rate, how often are people taking action with your content, what is the unsubscribe rate compared to the add-on rate, etc. A/B test content and continually adjust your program to optimize your email effectiveness. Find a balance between short-term sales and long-term life time value of your customer.
- Think across the Customer Experience – Integrate content across all of your company touch-points with a focus on keeping it interesting for your customer. You can include common questions from the Support team, interesting content that your Social team, great behind the scene stories from your community efforts and content from employee & customer advocacy. Your mail list is a valuable asset to build your brand reputation – don’t let it live in a silo of self promotion. Create a strategy on how to best mix in content that will ultimately drive revenue and nurture the customer at the same time.
Your subscriber list is marketing gold. Protect it with everything you’ve got. If you’re creating content that’s pissing off your audience and making them unsubscribe, it’s time for a change.