When you’re using email marketing to communicate with your audience — as in, you’re not just trying to sell them stuff — you’re building customer relationships. And relationships flourish when two parties engage in a dialogue. That’s true of your best personal friendships, and it’s also true in business.
Email communication is a great way to let subscribers know more about your expertise, business, service, or organization. But if you’re only using it as a one-way street to spread your message, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to engage with your readers and build long-term, trusted relationships. That’s important because..
1. “Welcome! How did you find us?”
The best place to start asking for reader feedback is at the point of connection — your welcome email letter. Warm it up by telling readers what they can expect to receive now that they’ve subscribed to your newsletter. Then ask them to email you info about how they heard about your business. Learning how new customers find you lets you channel your marketing efforts and dollars into the most effective outlets.
2. “Send us your thoughts, concerns, ideas, pet peeves, etc.”
Every email communication should have a link inviting recipients to talk back to you. A simple “What’s on your mind? We’d like to hear from you” can get the conversation started. Or tailor the question to something that’s happening in the news or your industry today.
3. “What kind of information do you want to hear from us?”
Survey or ask readers about the five most important topics they want to read about in your newsletter, so you can deliver highly relevant, valuable content. Tell them you’ll report on the results in a future issue. Feedback on content also allows you to segment your audience into smaller, more targeted groups. You can send readers only the content they are interested in.
4. “Stump the experts.”
Invite readers to stump you with their best questions. Suggest areas to ask about, such as uses for your products, or interesting, popular, or challenging aspects of your services — the things customers most often ask you about face to face. Tell readers you’ll give them credit if you answer their questions in your newsletter. And as thanks, you can send them a small gift, such as a pen, refrigerator magnet, desk calendar, or sticky note pad with your company logo on it.
5. “Share your success story.”
Here’s another type of “reader challenge” that fosters conversation, touts your products or services, and generates great content: Invite customers to share their success stories with you — ways your products or services have solved problems and improved their lives. Publish the best ones, credit the authors, and send the winners a fun freebie.
Getting the Conversation Started
Take a look at your next email marketing campaign. If it doesn’t contain a way for readers to “talk back” to you, pick one of the ideas above and integrate it into your communication. Get creative, be conversational, and have fun with it! Now is an opportune time, as people say good-bye to summer and settle into their fall schedules. Find out how people are feeling about the economy now and looking ahead to 2010. Not only will you get feedback that’s critical to making smart business decisions, you’ll get ideas that will help make your email communications — and your customer relationships — come to life.