Marketing is a process of nurturing interested prospects from awareness and info gathering through preference to conversion. E-mail has become our tool of choice because it’s widely used and accepted, easy to change or update, and it’s cheap. But assuming a prospect needs a series of messages or branded interactions between initial interest and sale, what’s the best way to engage, entertain, and grow the relationship?
There is a clear, if unacknowledged, difference between jamming messages down their throats and building a customer-friendly sequence of messages that keep you top of mind without turning off your prospects.
New research by MarketingSherpa casts some light on the topic by documenting the mismatch between marketers’ perceptions and their prospect’s perspective. The key takeaway is that the two are out of sync. Marketers love the tools they’ve bought and used time and time again like white papers, research studies, and content considered “educational.”
However, many customers could care less about getting this stuff. This corresponds to my experience with many brands who have put carpet-bombing e-mail programs in-place with little regard for frequency, segmentation, or the content needs of prospective buyers. The marketing effort is rooted in and measured by showing outbound activity rather than on creating relationships, persuasion, or sales.
Buyers say they are looking for news and information to stay current, tools or data to help them compare and sort out prospective vendors and make decisions. It’s OK to send them an article, a link or a picture with a quick note. In fact, an FYI often builds more gratitude and interest than a full-fledge pitch message. Prospects actually want to get promotional materials so they can see what deals are available and gauge a vendor’s sensibility about price, service, and extras. From the buyer’s perspective, less is more. The lighter touch and the lesser frequency are more persuasive, less intrusive and give the buyer a sense that he or she is respected and in control of the relationship and the process.
To optimize the nurturing and persuasive quality of your e-mail communication to prospective buyers, do these three things:
Dissect the decision process. Every product or service has a definable process flow. Understand how your customers buy and where the inflection or hesitation points are. Plan your e-mail nurturing to anticipate these points. Leverage timing, parse information, or make specific offers to proactively drive the process forward.
Isolate key variables. Every sale rests on a finite number of variables. Price and financing are always key considerations as are services, value-adds, and the quality of the relationship. Use e-mail to influence the favorable perception of these critical variables. Factor in frequency of messaging, tone, manner, and voice. Link the messages credibly to the individuals directly involved in closing the sale and ask for feedback.
Optimize for e-mail scanning. Since everyone scans e-mail, the big idea or the dominant offer ought to be set apart in bold type for emphasis. Bullets, lists, short sentences, and white space help buyers get the point quickly. Don’t get prissy about branding. Logos and graphics are a secondary concern, they add little connective firepower and often impede efficient e-mail delivery.