Chief Relationship Officer
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Iím an information junkie so I sign up for a lot of e-zines (pronounced e-zeenz) ó e-mail newsletters. I love learning new things and e-zines provide the information I need to keep up with the changes in the industries I work with. I also sign up for e-zines from companies that Iím considering doing business with in the future ó just so I donít forget about them.
The e-zine is a popular marketing vehicle for many companies. Itís incredibly inexpensive and you can create and send it in the same day. For people who have a great idea and want to act on it NOW before the idea burns up in the atmosphere, itís a perfect solution. Follow up is critical in forging lifelong business relationships and an e-zine is a great follow-up tool.
I never mind getting an e-mail from a company that Iím thinking about doing business with in the future ó as long as it has value. A quick way to inspire me to hit the delete key the minute I get an e-zine is to find that it is only an advertisement ó especially if the message is unsolicited. In fact, after I receive three or four ďempty contentĒ messages in a row from the same company, Iím inspired to unsubscribe from the list completely.
Nobody needs another e-zine or e-mail advertisement. It is a great way ó and sometimes the only way ó to reach some potential customers. However, we are dealing with a ďwhatís due nowĒ culture and reading someoneís e-mail advertisement isnít high priority. In fact, too much e-mail in my inbox stresses me out. It feels like a never-ending to-do list.
If you want people to engage with your company, your message to your prospect or customer ó regardless of the medium ó must be meaningful. I book professional speakers, trainers, and consultants, so Iím on many speakersí e-zine lists. Most of them understand the concept well. They write an article on their topic of expertise and e-mail it to their permission database (that means people subscribed giving them permission to send them a mass e-mail). In the e-zine, they probably mention something about a new book or seminar they have coming up. As a speaker bureau, I hang on to those because I can send them to my potential clients (people who plan meetings) because it shows the speakers are more than just pretty faces with a motivational message ó they are experts who can deliver important messages audiences in an entertaining way.
Here is the formula for a valuable e-zine: 75 percent meaningful content and 25 percent marketing message. This translates to a content-rich article that dominates 75 percent of the space ó something your prospect or customer is interested in. It might be related to your companyís product or service ó such as an accountant sending out articles on wealth management issues or tax law changes. It might just be a more general article that would interest your target client such as the forecast for peak fall color in your area (assuming your target market is in one particular region of the country).
The purpose is to provide something that benefits them before you hit the ďhereís something you can buy from meĒ message AKA the ďcall to action.Ē Thatís basically the same information/marketing breakdown youíd see in a print magazine. The magazine business isnít about providing information ó itís about providing a marketing medium to a target client so they can sell advertising. The magazines draw the target client by providing meaningful information. Your e-zine or e-mail contact can have the same objective only on a smaller scale.
We live in the information age. If you want your e-mail contact to be meaningful, you really must add value with every e-mail you send to total strangers. Even if everyone on your list is your fan or valued customer already, you still need to add information value.
People want to learn something that will improve their lives or fuel their interest in a particular topic. They want to receive information that is interesting to them. If you can customize your e-mail message to particular groups, do it! For instance, if your target client is real estate agents, send them information that is interesting to people in their industry. Become a conduit for the information that interests them so they donít have to search for it on their own. You add value when you save your target client time. Value Is More Than Just Good Content
Other key ingredients include entertainment (such as humorous stories), organized, concise content (because people are more likely to read it), and graphically pleasing layout (tasteful and easy to read). Readers like information but they like to get it in a visual, quick-to-read, and entertaining format. Think of it as cheese sauce for the broccoli.
To engage our prospects and customers on the Internet, we can invite them to our website via e-mail. While there is something magnetic about a hyperlink in an e-mail, we still have to entice our audience to click it to cross over to our web site. Iím not a recreational Internet surfer but even I can be lured by the right invitation.
Iím on the Gap and Old Navy advertising e-mail list because their ads help me keep up with fashion trends. They donít send me articles but they show images of how to put the clothes together. Iím really busy and canít remember the last time I bought a fashion magazine. When I shop, I need to make exactly the right purchase in a short amount of time. While I may not shop Old Navy each time, they maintain top-of-mind awareness while providing me information I value. They first attract my attention with a highly graphic, visually interesting e-mail. When I click on some element that interests me, it drives me to their website where I stay a minimum of 15 minutes ó even though I promise myself each time that Iím just going to delete the message without reading it.
I get some e-zines from photographers and graphic designers. I love it when they include things about their lives or portfolio images. Iím a photographer and do a good deal of my own creative work so I enjoy looking at their work. I also outsource most of my creative services and Iím asked for referrals often so it gives me a chance to give my clients options that best fit their needs. Itís good to have a variety of options because one size does not fit all clients.
I saw a brilliant ad the other day on weather.com. It was this sidebar ad for Acura. Now I never click on those flashing ads but this one caught my eye. One image said, ďCould a car company save a life?Ē and then the next image showed the picture of a big yellow Labrador retriever and so on ó five images in all. I like dogs and I was curious so I clicked on the ad. I landed on the Acura website where it had a ten-minute video segment about an organization that trains special needs dogs. I watched the entire thing and even got teary-eyed because it was a touching story. I donít even know the connection between Acura and this organization other than the woman they interviewed drove an Acura. The important thing is that I ended up on their website and once I got there, I traveled around the website.
The publicís rejection of e-mail marketing happened gradually over the last several years. It started with the endless stream of spam from uninvited sources and then everyone we knew thought forwarding jokes and funny stories to all their friends was the greatest thing ever. Then more and more companies attempted to reach us via e-mail with content as meaningless as the online pharmaceutical e-mails. Then companies and Internet service providers designed a slew of spam blockers that blocked the messages we wanted to get but couldn't filter out the e-mails from third-world countries inviting us to help them cash checks for their heirs. ARRGGHHH!
All this has caused e-mail to be less effective. We can't even keep up with the business-critical e-mails anymore ó if we even receive them! People are spending less time on the weekends and evenings sending e-mail because they are bombarded with meaningless e-mail co-mingled with their business-critical e-mail all day. They are turning their Blackberries and Treos off at night because they canít take the e-mail overload. There is such a thing as too much information.
I depend on e-mail. I have a number of clients who prefer to use e-mail for the bulk of their communication. I have several different databases that I communicate to for different things ó events, information, etc. I understand the power of the medium but Iíve also watched the decline in its effectiveness. Witnessing this phenomenon take place has inspired me to make changes in how I communicate to my potential clients.
We must revamp what we communicate so that every e-mail has meaningful content that interests our target clients. For our e-mail contact to have peak impact, we have to develop a reputation for sending messages that speak to the interests of our clients. They will place a priority on reading our messages when they trust us to provide customer-centered communication.
Over the coming months, Iíll be writing more on business relationships because that really is where the power resides in this high-tech, low-touch world. People are starting to realize that we can do business easier around the world than in our own town. However, we are beginning to miss human interaction and friendships that lay the foundation upon which relationships are built. And in business, repeated contact using a variety of methods is where lifelong customers come from. And lifelong relationships translate to happier clients and bigger profits. I want that and I know you do too.
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