Email Marketing In The Dead Zone: Are You Training Your List To Ignore You?

Email Marketing In The Dead Zone: Are You Training Your List To Ignore You?
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Even with all the hoopla around social marketing and engagement, for most small businesses email is where the real engagement happens. Believe it or not, all that “socializing” we do online is still not as effective when it comes to running a business, connecting with customers and making sales as the good old fashioned humdrum email.

And you want a piece of that, right?

I sure do. And while there are best practices and worst practices, no practice in the world will do you any good if you’re making the simple fatal mistake of getting your recipients used to ignoring you.

But how?? You may wonder. I’m charming! I’m witty! My products or services rule the world! Someone would have to be brain dead to ignore you, right?

Well, it’s quite possible that the reason your list is brain dead is because you killed ’em that way. How? Let’s find out. And see if we can zap a little Frankenspark back into them, too.

Your List Might Be Brain Dead If: You Email The Same Thing Over And Over

I should talk, right? I’m the one emailing the same thing over and over right from this very blog. Every time there’s an update, everyone on my list gets one in their inbox. Pretty same-y, isn’t it?

Alas, the conundrum – there is a difference between letting your readers know what to expect and simply lulling them into… well, brain deadness. I promised my list updates on this blog. I didn’t promise coupons or chocolate pie or anything else. There is a certain expectation that I’ve set here, and you’ve probably set one too.

The nuance is that within that expectation, you need to offer something new. Every email that comes from my blog has a new headline (and hopefully an interesting one!) and a new blurb to tease the post du jour. Now imagine I sent an email out again and again about the same post. Besides confusing the heck out of my audience I bet they’d either unsubscribe or go on auto-delete every time they saw my name.

In another context, imagine you’re a retailer and every.single.email that you send out is a 20% coupon. That might seem like a win the first time. Maybe even the second. But after a while it’s just another 20% coupon. Been there, done that. Unless the only thing you want your list to do is sit around waiting for your next coupon, think about switching it up.

This isn’t to imply that you need to do a song and dance in every email. It only means that you need to pay attention to your message so it keeps the image of your business fresh in the minds of your email readers. Same ol’ “buy me now” message, same ol’ “get my ebook” message, same ‘ol any message is neither inspiring to your audience nor helpful for your business.

Spark up your email list again with something new. If you send offers, try a new offer. If you send news, make sure it’s new-news that’s actually interesting to someone else. If you’re just trying to promote the heck out of your ebook… try Twitter instead.

Your List Might Be Brain Dead If: You Never Ask Them To Take Action

Do you know what happens to your muscles when you sit down or lie in bed for a very long time? They start to atrophy. Stop using a muscle long enough and it will fail to function when you finally get around to remembering it’s there.

Your email list is a marketing muscle. If you don’t give it some exercise in the form of clicks or shares, it may just well atrophy.

This is one of the dangers of email “news”, especially if you plan to send more than news and hope someone will join, share or buy.

Newsletters are often full of blah blah blah about some company award or the latest move to a new office, maybe something about a charitable event you supported or an introduction to a new employee. Even if you can make all this “news” sound like the most fascinating stuff on earth, if you don’t have a single call-to-action in your email then you’re setting yourself up to combat zombie readers later.

If you want to share, post it to Facebook. But if you want to market, you need to include a call-to-action. It need not be obtrusive and you don’t even need to ask anyone to buy anything. You just need to exercise the click muscle. Get your readers used to responding to you. That may be by forwarding your email to a friend, visiting your Facebook page to check out some great new photos or even replying to a question you asked in the email.

Train your readers right and then when you do put the “buy now” button or the “sign up” link or some other revenue-generating action, it’ll be second nature for someone to click and check it out.

Your List Might Be Brain Dead If: You Use Email As A One-Way Street

What’s your response when you get a phone call and it’s an automated service that starts its tinny yakking in your ear? I don’t know about you, but this is mine: click.

That’s because we’ve been taught that phone communication is a two-way street. It’s a conversation, not an opportunity for someone to pour their words into our ears while we sit captive. Unfortunately, that’s the way a lot of marketers think about email. It’s their opportunity to pour their message into the eyeballs of their readers and sit back and wait for the sales to roll in.

I’ve got news for you. It doesn’t work that way any more than phone calls work that way. If the only thing you ever do with your email readers is pour pour pour, eventually you’re going to fill their little heads up until they pop. Then you’ve got brain dead email zombies on your hands and that’s no pretty sight.

Here’s the biggest problem with brain dead zombie subscribers: they will probably never unsubscribe. And so you’ll continue speaking into the dead zone, thinking you’ve got this big, awesome list when all you’ve got are a bunch of people hitting the delete key.

Big retailers can get away with this because we want them to keep the discounts coming. I put up with about 976 Williams Sonoma emails a year just so I can get that one where the cocoa is on sale. As small business people we have to work differently. We have to treat our email list not as a list but as a group of actual people who we communicate with.

Treat them as you would anyone else that you email with. Email, reply. Leave the door open to communication. Don’t send emails from a “do not reply” address. Why would you? Unless you’ve got groupies hanging on your every word, marketing is work! You’ve got to make the effort to build the relationships with people you want to do business with.

I don’t care how many Twitter followers or Facebook fans you have. You can market to them and broadcast to them all day long because as much as we talk about engagement, you’re still talking into a crowded room.

But if someone lets you into their email inbox, that’s personal. They’ve opened up the door to you and said hey, you’re kinda cool, I’d like to hang out with you a while and see where this goes. If you’re a smart marketer, you’ll take that to heart and ditch the tinny yakking in favor of a real conversation.

Show your email list some love. You know what happens if you don’t, right? Drooling, brain dead, unresponsive zombie-list that you’ve programmed to hit delete. Deleting emails is easy. Deleting people? Not so much.

What do you think? Do you agree with me on this or do you still think email is for broadcasting and sending out coupons? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This post is part of the June 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera