Ok, I’m just going to be honest, and give you my thoughts, and challenge you to give this some thought, and think about what is best for you, and what you want to do in your business.
Here are three ways that we can use the power of email, and be both authentic and effective.
1. Rethink Your Opening – When you open your email to your list, do you insert their first name, and then write as if you are writing just to them? Most people do, and this is a decision every business person has to make at some point. But I want you to think about it, instead of just copying what everyone else does.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate this. Last year I had recently started my blog, and I had run a few facebook ads. So I had a combination of a handful of good friends and then a handful of strangers on my list. Only a couple of my friends every commented on my posts and replied to my emails. I was feeling really contemplative and wanting to get a response, so I wrote a passionate email to my list about how I needed them to need me, and I was ready to serve and wanted input on what to teach them next. And one of my good friends replied apologetically with something along the lines of, “I’m sorry I just can’t do this right now.” She was busy working, and was pregnant and wasn’t actually even who my target audience was shifting to be. And I felt so bad. I quickly sent some email about don’t worry, never mind, hope you’re feeling alright, I’m here for you as a friend.
And that exchange has stuck with me. Then months later I heard Gary Vaynerchuk talk about email automation; and he was pretty critical of the common practice in the industry of using first names and automation to create what appeared to be a personal email when it was not in fact personally written by him and sent to that person. He has built his personal brand on social, although he used email in the beginning to sell wine.
I heard him talk about this, it brought back to mind that exchange with my friend, and I made a risky decision earlier this year that I’m sticking with.
When I email my list I don’t insert their first name even if I have it. I say ‘hey there’ or ‘hey friend’, something like that. I was slow to build my list and I started it with people I was connecting with professionally in some way or another. It was months before I started getting people on my list I hadn’t met. And my goal is to sell many of them into my membership or 1on1 services, in which case I will eventually meet them.
I want to be a real person to many on my list, and since I have emailed so many of them, I realized it was important to me for them to know when an email was directly from me to them, and when it was a broadcast to everyone. This is a reflection of my values and becomes part of my brand. I hope this helps you think about what is important to you. You may get a slightly higher engagement by using their name, but I think we should be wary of blindly using every small tactic that statistically gets ‘higher engagement’.
I believe we’re heading into a time where authenticity and being real is going to become more and more important. Besides, what really matters is building all of the pieces in a way that makes you love your business. You should be proud of the way you do business, and this really comes from the small details. So here is a second detail that matters:
2. Rethink Your Subject – This is closely related to #1. I will concede that you need to think of catchy subjects in order to get people’s attention, and intrigue them enough to get them to open it and give your email a chance to be read. However I want to challenge you to establish your own mental rules for how your subject line for emails to your entire list will be distinguished from emails to individuals.
One way I do this is to capitalize most of the words when I am writing to my list, and use larger more keyword-type of words. And then to individuals I use all lower case and use smaller words, which usually helps imply that there is context they already know, it sounds personalized and as if the conversation is already ongoing, which of course it is. What this means is that I don’t write misleading emails to my list that make it sound like we were already having a personal conversation. My challenge to you is to give some thought to your subjects and consider establishing a line of personal integrity, and then holding the line there.
3. Use Tags – Ok, this is a big one. Every email service provider has upgraded in the last few years to include the use of tags. If you respect the people on your list, you must take the time to learn and use tags. It is your responsibility to understand the journey you intend to take your readers through in your email sequences (and funnels), and utilize tags to make sure they get the appropriate emails.
This is a big one because their are consequences for not doing it, and rewards for investing time in it. Right now I’m in a membership that I signed up for a couple of months ago during the launch window. The person running the membership recently reopened it and I got the entire sales sequence about joining. I sent them one email about how I’m already in it, and ignored the rest of the emails as I still got them. But then I got the ‘you’re going to miss out’ and ‘why didn’t you sign up’ emails. And there were addressed to me with my name at the top, from her. And then I had another email from a few weeks ago where she and I had chatted about something.
I know and like this person enough that I will persist in helping point out this so they can address it, instead of being turned off and going away, but think about the dissonance, the weird feeling that experience creates.
Email is powerful but it’s also dangerous. It’s easy to follow a template, set up a sequence, and then forget it. And then add another. Or a product. Or a new customer experience. And not pay attention to how things connect. Tagging allows you to identify everyone who subscribes to a sequence, or purchases a product, and then exclude them from any further emails intended to get them to subscribe to that information, or purchase that thing.
But because email is powerful, it’s also full of incredible potential. You can do things like add tags to identify people who frequently open or click on your emails, and then send them something special. Nurturing your best customers is always worth the time invested. And then you can also identify those who have not opened any emails for awhile and send them an email along the lines of ‘do you still want these emails’. If they don’t answer or click to stay, you can save money and mental space by removing these people from your list.
We’re entering an interesting time in the history of email marketing. Automation and funnels hold incredible promise and opportunity to help small businesses grow, but we must approach this endeavor with a commitment to our values or we will lose some of that which makes the endeavor noble and worthwhile.
Why build our own businesses, only to yield consistently to the demands of convenience and short term thinking? Let’s blaze a path on higher ground, and commit ourselves to approaching our email funnels with an attitude of service or gratitude for space in those inboxes.