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THE LONG STORY, SHORT

Email is not dead. It may not be as cool, trendy, or techy as the latest social network. But, it has higher click-through rates. And, companies that use it can generate twice the number of quality leads at one-third of the cost. As a way to tell your story and empower customers to share your message, email is hard to beat.

 


IN CONTEXT

Email, or at least your email lists, are something you own---like your story. You may never have thought about it, but you don't own the list of contacts, likes, and shares that are in your social media accounts; the social networks do. Like your website and the sign on the side of your building, email lists are a part of the owned media that can fuel your growth. But, just like any other asset, if it isn't working for you then it’s probably losing its value. Owning a list doesn't mean you can take the relationship, or story opportunity, that email represents for granted.

Email also tends to hang around the inbox for a long time. That means that it is searchable, and becomes a part of the serial story that you’re telling. Unlike social media, which tends to have a short shelf life and gets buried in the mountain of notifications, email that has interest or value to your customer can be easily saved, filed, or referred to in the future.

Effective email has to offer value to your customer. Readers should be glad to see your message in their inbox because the content is useful and informative. Since 88% of people don't have a separate inbox for business and personal, your messages are entering the personal space of those on your list. The emails that you write need to focus on the interests and needs of your customer. This skill often requires creating segmented lists, so that the right people get the right kind of topics.

Email your customer list on a regular basis to gradually build your story. If you have an active, valuable, customer-responsive organization then consistent communication tells customers you are alive. It keeps you top-of-mind. Remember that your story has to be told in order to keep your list active.

To make this all work, you need to have an effective strategy within the right systems. Having a content strategy will provide direction and ideas for your emails. Your content strategy should meet customer needs and serve business goals. This concept is important. So important, in fact, that our team builds strategies and systems for our clients that integrate communications, media, and customer experiences. We refer to them as "story ecosystems."

>Email is an important part of the "story ecosystems" and helps you find and keep customers.<

Three ways you can build relationships with email.

  1. Collect and use the recipient’s first name in the email. Your message will become more personal when it isn't addressed to "valued customer." Of course, you have to collect that information and keep names organized and attached to the right address. Effective email systems allow for simple and consistent accuracy of contact information, making the task of personalizing your interactions a breeze.
  2. Write emails to the individual, not the group. Use "you" instead of "we" in your writing. Action is always more effective when the email is written to your customer, not a generic group.
  3. Use responsive emails, sent after a person takes an action relating to your brand. When they sign up, ask a question. Or, when they abandon a process on your website, send them an email.

Five things you really should do with your email.

  1. Stay on story. Every email should match your brand’s story and extend that narrative to your customer. You can't change tone, style, or brand imagery without confusing the audience.
  2. Target optimal times for your email. An effective email system will track best open times for your customers. For example: never email on Tuesdays because that's the highest unsubscribe day. (OK, that's a don't, but still useful).
  3. Use pictures and impressive styling. Most people prefer emails that are heavy on the pictures and light on words. Images are just as important as what you write Maybe more important. The visual part of your story should come through clearly and in a way that engages your customers. Be careful not to send "Frankenstein emails"— emails with various fonts, sizes, colors, and sections. Formatting is very important, and people need visual cues telling them what is important.
  4. Make your emails mobile friendly. Currently around 50% of people will read your email on their mobile device. And the that number is growing to 8 in 10 people by 2018. Design and test for mobile first.
  5. Think three-second scan. That's all you get, but it’s more than what you get with most other media contacts. Your subject line and headings have to tell the whole story.
  6. BONUS TIP  |  Use a social media share button on your email. It increases the value, as well as the click-through rate.

 Is email worth it?

If you’re still not convinced, think of it this way: every dollar invested in email marketing to your house list can create a $44 return. Email is forty times more effective at customer acquisition than Facebook and Twitter. That sounds like a successful and cost-efficient way to tell your story.

 

David Mills

Written by David Mills

David is one of the founders of Story Collaborative and serves as the Chief Growth Officer. He is passionate about finding the right strategy for each client and helping them move into sustainable growth. He is a veteran of organizational development and communications and has worked with thousands of businesses and nonprofits across the country.