Top Takeaways for Small Businesses from Email Summit 2012
Editor’s Note: Email Summit is attended by hundreds of marketers every year from a wide range of companies —solo entrepreneurs all the way up to Fortune 50 stalwarts. So to give the small- and medium-sized business readers of this blog some actionable advice from this year’s Summit, we’re giving Rebekah Henson, Education Marketing Associate, AWeber, a chance to provide the SMB perspective. In full disclosure, AWeber sponsored an SMB-focused special report from MarketingSherpa, is a sponsor of Email Summit, and the editor of this blog used to root against Chris Webber (no relation).
“The customer is king.” That’s been the overarching theme of Email Summit 2012. From the first words of Dr. Flint McGlaughlin’s keynote on day one, promising not to teach us new things but instead to teach us to see things differently, the focus of this year’s Summit has been all about valuing your customers.
That is right up every small business’s alley. Speakers from all different backgrounds and business sizes spoke on panels and presented on their findings, but you can easily apply several key takeaways from the week no matter how big or small your business happens to be.
The Customer is King
Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Brian Solis (author, The End of Business as Usual), Jermaine Griggs (founder of Hear and Play Music) and Ryan Amirault (Regional Marketing Director for Whole Foods) all talked about it on day one: consumers in 2012 expect a more personal, relevant and personalized experience.
Solis and Dr. McGlaughlin both encouraged attendees in their keynote speeches to “think like your customers.” Dr. McGlaughlin said he was there to get us to “see with new eyes, through your customers’ eyes.”
Ryan Amirault and Jermaine Griggs provided real-world examples of how their own companies put this into practice:
- Griggs collects his customers’ data and uses it to tailor automated campaigns to each one’s needs and interests. Some of it based is on their interactions with his messages, and some of it is based on preferences they’ve specified themselves during sign-up. Use what you know about your customers to create a personal experience.
- Griggs also scores his leads based on their behaviors on his site and in his emails. The higher the score, the more primed a customer is to make a purchase. Customers with higher scores receive more frequent emails and purchase opportunities. The key here is don’t start selling to your customers until you know they’re ready to buy (another common theme on day one).
- Amirault shared his list-building wisdom: if you want your list to grow faster, have conversations with your customers. These conversations can happen anywhere – on social networks, through mobile channels and even in person offline.
Ultimately, small businesses should focus on building a relationship with their customers to earn the sale. Dr. McGlaughlin related typical marketing mistakes to rushing into a marriage proposal before going on a first date.
Instead, realize that your promotional emails are really a series of low-commitment “micro-yeses” that lead to the ultimate yes – the clickthrough to your offer. Building a chronology of easy consent builds trust with your subscribers, just like a series of dates can lead to marriage.
Solis said that the @ symbol in email and on Twitter really stands for an earned token to connect with someone else. And that connection can expose you to their entire network of people who you might not have reached on your own, as long as you listen and earn their trust.
… And Content is King, too
While the customer mindset was the main theme throughout day one, day two’s common thread was creating content that speaks to your customers’ mindsets.
As Marcus Sheridan stated in his keynote Thursday morning, “Good content marketing involves being a good listener. Content is the greatest sales tool in the world, but only if it’s delivered the right way.”
Effectively delivering your content involves listening to your customers and addressing the questions they’re asking – even if it’s about how you stack up against your competition. The more transparent you are in your marketing, the more respect you’ll earn.
Microsoft harnesses the power of content marketing in their post-purchase emails for Office 2010. Senior Product Manager Jamie Bothwell shared three takeaways from their highly successful campaign on Thursday afternoon:
- Use helpful content to build a lasting post-purchase relationship with your customers.
- Take a long-term approach. This means paying attention to your customers’ needs and how long they’ve been receiving your emails. Adjust your content to stay relevant to their long-term needs.
- Make it personal with real people. Let customers get to know the people behind your brand. Microsoft’s emails feature their staff members in short, helpful how-to videos. Inject personality by letting more of your team members shine.
“You can’t attract subscribers if you don’t have great content, and you can’t retain subscribers if you don’t have great content,” stated W. Jeffrey Rice, Senior Research Analyst, MECLABS, during day two’s relevancy training session. Segmenting your audience can help you target content that relates to their needs and interests.
No one knows content creation like Brian Clark and Sonia Simone of Copyblogger. Their session covered easy tactics for producing content that converts your readers into customers:
- Don’t make the sale in your email. Effective email content rewards readers; it doesn’t pitch to them. “You want your content to reward your reader for opening it,” Simone stated. “The content itself becomes the incentive for opening it.”
- Don’t try to entice with discounts. Your customers will just wait for your next discount and never buy from you. Instead, Clark suggested encouraging your customers to buy now or else they’ll pay more for your product later. And no one enjoys feeling like they missed out.
- Let your content be content. Your email shouldn’t look like an ad. Give your email content its own value independent of whether or not your customer ultimately buys from you.
One more thing: effective content is a conversation. Let your customers reply to your messages and answer them as you can to keep the sale conversation flowing organically.
Should You Go Mobile?
Just like it’s important to carefully consider the value and purpose of using social media for your business, it’s equally important to think about your mobile strategy. Mobile email – and mobile marketing in general – is on the rise as more and more consumers carry the World Wide Web in their pockets.
But it shouldn’t be a question of jumping on the bandwagon. Like any marketing channel, tuning in to what your customer base is using is key. Wednesday’s mobile marketing panel had a few more points that small businesses should keep in mind:
- Base your mobile efforts on your client base, said Nick Fuller of eDialogue International. Sure, plenty of people have smartphones these days, but what about your customers? If mobile matters to them, explore the channel.
- Fuller also discussed mobile marketing’s “in-the-moment” factor. Marketing with mobile-optimized email is best executed when you’re meeting your audience in a specific time, at a specific place, with a specific action.
- Kate Williams, a consultant for T-Mobile, stressed the importance of keeping your mobile campaign simple. Have a clear objective and don’t ask for too much commitment from your customers. Make sure your mobile offer is valuable enough for your customers to take action.
Alex Corzo, who optimized The Ritz-Carlton’s mobile campaign, stressed the importance of understanding your mobile customers during his talk on day two. Know which devices they’re using to access your landing pages, and optimize for the most popular device among your customers.
The Key Takeaway
As Dr. Flint McGlaughlin said at the beginning of day one, “In the end, there are no experienced marketers. There are only experienced testers.” Testing is the key to any successful email campaign and is another way you can listen to and learn about your customers.
Don’t be afraid to experiment or try something new that no one in your field has done before. If you’re in tune with your customers’ needs and preferences and implementing results from your tests, you’ll have a healthier, more effective campaign for your business.