Remember when you were a little kid and going to get the mail was like this big, exciting event? You’d run out there, certain that there was going to be a letter or card or at least an interesting catalog to leaf through?
Then you got older and the mail slowly became something to dread. There was rarely anything happy or interesting in it and more often than not, there was a depressing bill or two lurking in that pile. You began to open your mailbox not with a yay but with a sigh.
Then email came along. Fun, magical email.
Suddenly you could instantly connect with long lost friends and family all over the world. You could send work files without having to print or mail anything. It was the neatest thing on the planet at the time.
But slowly, the same transformation took place. Your once-wondrous email inbox turned into a swamp to be slogged through. So much spam. So many coupons you didn’t want. That same feeling of sighing instead of being excited took over.
And this is exactly how your customers feel.
They have locked down, filtered and white-listed their email boxes so well these days that only the most wanted stuff sneaks through. So, in order to successfully run an email marketing campaign, it’s not enough to make your emails informative and timely. You have to make them wantable.
You have to create a simple, direct, graphically interesting series of content that will have them whitelisting you, opening your emails and clicking through and taking action.
And don’t worry if you can’t afford the custom photography and professional writers that the big brands can. You don’t need to! More than half the battle is just not making the most common mistakes smaller service companies seem to make. Here are a few–
Common Mistakes We Don’t Need to Make
Buy, Buy, Buy
If I had to name the #1 most common mistake companies make with their email marketing is that they “hit the ground selling.”
No. Just no.
After you have put in days (if not weeks) loading up your list, setting up your service, paying for your service, and designing an email I get that it’s tempting to see what you can sell right away.
Gimme that ROI, baby!
But — hold yourself back. Be patient. Your job for the first little while isn’t to sell this list, it’s to make them like you and trust you.
And what’s more unlikable than a pushy salesman who is trying to get you to give him money before he’s even bothered to small talk with you?
Resist the urge to sell right away. Many experts will agree that selling right away is off-putting, but you’ll find many different recommendations on when it finally is okay to go for the hard sale.
I myself recommend an “every third” email approach. That is, you first send two emails in a row that are pure content with no overt selling. (Remember: if they want to buy from you sooner, they can always click on your email banner and visit your site.)
Then the third email can be a friendly toned but informative heads-up about a sale you have going on. No pressure, no hard sell, just a “did you know” kind of description of a special discount or sale you have going on.
Then on your 4th email, go right back to charming them with great content.
Yell, Yell, Yell
Another extremely common mistake small businesses make is to try to stand out from the crowd by being LOUD.
Visually, graphically loud with bright neon colors or – heaven forbid– flashing, sparkling font effects. This is the marketing equivalent of throwing live firecrackers and loud exploding caps in your customer’s mailbox.
Oh yes, you’ll get their attention all right, but its not the attention you want.
Keep colors subtle and sophisticated. You need not tone it down to full-on black and white, but try not to stuff every animated trick and color of the rainbow in your email design.
Even for those of us who can’t afford a custom designer, many beautifully pre-designed templates exist. Do a little research on what is considered tasteful, great design and pick a template that follows suit.
(For a list of places to find free stock images, check out this post here and some tips to help you stay out of hot water when it comes to using images in emails and blog posts.)
This a “No Yelling” rule that also goes for the copy. Take it easy on the caps, people. Even if you’re excited about your latest offer.
Same thing with exclamation points. Not only does “TYPING LIKE THIS!!!!” not excite people into buying from you, it risks making you sound like a teenage girl at the keyboard. Find other ways communicate urgency and excitement.
Me, Me, Me
Anyone who’s been around Internet marketing for more than a few years knows this one. Remember when everyone used to write on his or her website’s home page, “Welcome to Bob’s Plumbing. This is my website.” Or some such?
I know your mother trained you that it was only polite to welcome people to your home. But this isn’t a tea party, friend, this is business, and customers don’t want to wade through a lot of blah blah about you and your background.
They want to know, right away, how you can help them. If later on they are curious about your credentials or background, they can seek that information on their own. That’s what the About Us tab on your website is for.
(You can use these blog post tips and apply them to the copy of your email newsletter.)
Keep the neat stuff that appears in their inbox all about them. Address their top-of-mind concerns immediately, right from the headline. (Heck, right from the subject line. But that’s another topic.) Hook them in with information they have already been thinking about even before they opened your email.
This is what will make your emails wantable.
Zzz, Zzz, Zzz
You want to inform them, teach them. Like I said above, you do want to address their concerns and problems and questions. But what you never, ever want to do? Bore them.
I have seen email newsletters that have tons of fantastic content them. Really good, useful, well-researched content that I know took the business owner eons to write and perfect. Unfortunately it was presented in long, dry, paragraphs that went on and on. Classic case of working hard but not smart.
Think nuggets and bullets. People want that information but they aren’t going to sit back in their easy chair, light a pipe and read your 600-word email about that topic. They just aren’t. It’s not the way the world works these days.
No, they’ll likely be ‘consuming’ this content on their tablets or even phones. So make sure business newsletters are quick, fun, easy reads. Make them simple to scan and skim. Say they originally open your email on the commute. Give them a quick sense of the quality of the content so that they will save it to read in depth, later.
(Better still, put the teaser bullets in the email and post the lengthier article on your website. Make them click through to your site or blog to read it.)
Now that we have talked about techniques to avoid, let’s get into the positive stuff. How should you compile a ‘wantable’ email newsletter?
How to Compile a Wantable Email Newsletter
Use real stories from real customers. Real jobs you have performed. Think of the best, most interesting stories you tell your buddies when you go out for drinks.
If you need to, change the names and the language to protect the innocent.
If you want to really catch your customer’s eye in email, you shouldn’t just be sending content that’s hypothetical or worse – fictional. Knowing that there’s a real person writing these emails – someone who likely lives in the same town as your customer – is a real draw to readers.
So be real.
Talk about specific lawn tips that affect your customer’s region, if you are a landscaper. Talk about how best to winterize your pipes on just the right week, if you’re a plumber.
Be professional but neighborly, and soon your customers will stop seeing you as a spammer and start viewing you as smart neighbor who can help them with their lawn, plumbing or home improvement.
When you write your newsletters, stop and think about context. The context of your customer’s inbox. What else are they getting, possibly from your competitors?
Maybe your rival exterminator is sending out coupons on their next termite treatment. Coupons that are only useful once every few years, and are likely snagged in the spam filter for using the word “coupon” in the first place.
So when they are zigging, you should be zagging.
Send out an FBI style “most wanted” poster of a mosquito. Or a close up of what those little bloodsuckers look like and tell your readers to ask their kids if they can name that bug.
Make the email jump out at them and make them smile. Remember, you don’t need to sell them right away. Just make them like you first. Engage them, surprise them.
Stop trying to sound like a big, huge monolith of a company. This is especially true if you’re a small service-based company. People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people. Big brands pay millions of dollars to ‘put a face’ on their businesses so that customers will warm to them.
You don’t have to pay a dime for this. You already have a face. Yours.
You don’t want to send out content that is like everything else out there, right? And pretty much the only way to guarantee that is to be you.
What your preschool teacher always told you is actually true: There’s no one like you. So talk like you. (But with cleaned-up language, grammar and vigorous spell checking.) Tell your stories. Tell your customers’ stories. Be simple, be interesting, be brief and be you.
What could be more “wantable” than that?
Okay, let me have it. What are the worst (and best) emails you have ever received? What kind of mistakes have you made in email marketing? What brand sends out emails that you always make a point of reading, maybe even saving? Let me know in the comments below.
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