Email Marketing is Dead!

email marketingAnd other untruths about small business marketing that may be keeping your local small business from prosperity. It’s true, email marketing is easy and cheap. But that doesn’t mean that you should be shoving it at the In Box of every email address you can get your hands on.

Because that my friends is SPAMMING which is icky and frowned upon by most civilized people.

You know email has been around longer than you might realize, long before the days of the personal computer. I read online that MIT used a system called MAILBOX in 1965. Early on, email was analogous to putting a note on someone’s chair. Those who were using it, merely put a message in someone’s directory in a place they were sure to see it.

It was actually a guy named Ray Tomlinson who is credited with inventing the use of the “at” symbol to create virtual addresses. Tomlinson was working for an ARPANET contractor and he chose the @ symbol as a little hack where all those McSmarty pants scientists and computer programmers could simply send messages by typing the name of a person then the @ symbol and then the name of the computer where that person worked. It’s still the nomenclature we use today.

Of course, email marketing was inevitable…

But like all good things invented, we used it, expanded it, found more ways to use it, started annoying one another with it and finally learned to complain about it. But it was undeniably a part of our lives and it’s hard to imagine going backward.

Everything in your marketing arsenal has the ability to be used well or used poorly. And we’ve developed this uncanny ability to ignore the stuff that we’re not interested in.

The telephone eventually led marketers to telemarketing and the government to create laws restricting it because we were so annoyed. The majority of mail at my house is some sort of junk mail or coupon  circular. Things we never asked for that go straight into the recycling bin. And email, because it’s free, became the weapon of choice to marketers everywhere. Imagine you could send a message directly to anyone thanks to that nifty @ symbol and push your junk on them. Voilà, email marketing is born.

Spammers jumped on that bandwagon in droves. The government gave us laws about that too, but they’re much harder to enforce because of the sheer numbers.

The latest studies tell us that we only believe around 14% of advertising. In the Mad Men era, advertising firms could tell us anything and we believed it. We were sheep and the ad firms were the shepherds. But we are no longer sheep. There are so many choices vying for our attention today that it’s probably more like herding cats from the advertisers perspective.

Today I want you to take an objective look at your messaging everywhere that you are sharing copy with the outside world in an effort to engage new customers and clients, including your email marketing.

It may be your website, a yellow pages ad (although, in general, I hope you’re not still buying yellow pages ads), social media, direct mail pieces, magazine ads, television, radio. Anywhere your message is being shared in either real or digital ink with words directed toward your customers.

Now, it has to be an objective look. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the potential customer here. Remember, we only believe 14% of advertising, which means we are dismissing entirely, 86% of what a business tells us in print.

How does your business come across? Is most of your messaging all salesy sounding. Are you constantly putting out coupons and discounts, or trying to talk customers into something? In fact, check and see if the messaging is all about you and what you can do.

Instead, consider making your message about your customers. Identify their needs. Not what you have to sell that you want them to buy. Again that’s about you.  Think about what your customers are really looking for that only you can provide. We all have problems and we look for solutions to those problems. Rather than tell me about your discounts and your awards and your credentials, try helping me understand how to solve my problems. And once you’ve convinced me how to solve my problems, show me your solution.

That’s the kind of engagement that customers appreciate and remember and…

Email marketing is an EXCELLENT way to communicate.

But you need to finesse it. Treat it like you would dating. You wouldn’t propose marriage on the first date. Likewise, you shouldn’t be sending emails telling your customers, “Buy my $h1t.” And expecting a pleasant rapport. It’s a quick way to turn people off.

Your customers won’t mind receiving email marketing from you. Frequently. If what you send them is extremely helpful and all about them, not you. A good rule of thumb is always the 80/20 principle. Plan 80% of your email marketing to be helpful, resourceful and useful. Then you can leave the last 20% for asking customers to buy your $h1t. They may even thank you for it.

To learn more about some excellent email marketing practices, listen to the February 11, 2013 episode of ACT LOCAL Marketing for Small Business on the Rockstar Radio Network.