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How to Create Better Emails with Strategic Direction

February 5, 2017


Email marketing and its effectiveness are sometimes questioned when there are so many other newer and shinier social and digital media objects on the horizon. Those options include newer social media vehicles, improvements on the long-time standards, and the apparent efficiencies of pay-per-click and remarketing.

All these channels have value—when used strategically—and the most fundamental issue is to recognize each for what it does best.  As an example, many might not consider direct mail because it is considered to be “dated” or costly.   However, recent research indicates a majority of direct mail recipients see it as much more personal and friendly than the massive network of inexpensive internet options.

Why Email Marketing Can Make Strategic Sense

Using email marketing as a major tool makes sense for at least four core reasons:

  1. strategic-elements-of-emaiil-marketingCustomers on an email list have chosen to be there because they want to hear relevant news from you and your concept. If they didn’t, they would quickly unsubscribe (and you should always be offering a clear and easy way for them to opt out).
  2. Email accounts will continue to grow at about 6% per year worldwide for the next few years while the number of email users will grow at 3% annually (The Radicati Group, Inc. March 2015).  Online transactions like shopping and banking will continue to require valid email addresses, and 55% of emails are opened on mobile, which is an increasingly important vehicle (Litmus, March 2016).
  3. And did I mention relevance? The much sought after Millennials (20 to 35 years old) want their news through email as 43% trust email more than other social media vehicles―as long as your news is relevant.
  4. Email marketing communications allow you to acquire an accurate and current address that will not change as frequently as other social media accounts or addresses.

Key Points to Effective Email Marketing

Understanding why email recipients opt out is a good first step toward creating a strategically effective email program.  Almost two-thirds of customers disengage from an email list because they did not subscribe (36%) or saw the emails being received as irrelevant (32%).

At the same time, what they want is equally clear:

  • 24% want information they can use.
  • 23% want emails that are more personal and relate to them.

I know restaurant CEOs and owners who are particularly worried about having customers drop out of their email list.  This is an understandable but potentially needless concern because people move or simply lose interest in a concept category because of age and income changes (but keep the number under 2%!).

They should, however, be concerned if their emails are not informative, relevant, or telling relevance-matters-in-all-marketing-effortsan interesting story about the category or brand.  They should be concerned if their emails are not engaging.

Think of it like this: we all enjoy hearing from friends and colleagues and those with interesting points of view.  We all know selling is part of life (Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human recognizes that 40% of us have jobs involved in selling, convincing, influencing…).  The first―but not only―job of any customer communication is to create or build on a relationship.

The basic rule of effective email, then, is to make sure your emails are providing relevant and interesting brand news.  In general, surveys have indicated that about 54% of email recipients find up to three emails a month as acceptable (and many will accept even more).  These numbers offer good guidance, but the core issue is—back to this again—being informative, relevant, and interesting.

You will, of course, want your emails strategically to promote the business and directly increase sales.  But take a moment to ask yourself whether your email recipients really know and understand your concept as much as they want to.  Do they know what drives the restaurant or concept’s goals, the brand, your teams?

My suggestion is to use at least 30% to 40% of your emails to provide relevant information to your customers, emails that remind your guests of how authentic your concept is so they can better relate to it.  For restaurants, this might lead to a discussion of ingredient origins, the real value of fresh, the personal story behind a concept’s commitment to its customers, how you hire your staff, why the restaurant was started, or the personal story behind a General Manager’s commitment to his customers.

It’s clear that a good, strategically focused email marketing program can not only help promote your business and its specials but also build more lasting and deeper relationships with customers who want to be engaged and know more.  Start with relevance as your foundation and add initiatives to build sales on top of that.

[A version of this email first  appeared in the AMA Executive Circle blog on January 18, 2017]

Following are relevant marketing articles which might also be of interest:

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