Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools you'll ever have as a marketing or sales person. With just your list of emails and names, you can reach out to thousands of individuals at a time, but with an ever growing number of senders all vying for a prospect's limited time and attention, crafting remarkable emails that stand out in an inbox and build personal relationships is increasingly important and difficult.
Whether you're looking to reengage an old contact, welcome a new subscriber, or nurture a lead, you'll be competing against the thousands of brands that person is going to be exposed to in one day alone. So, how exactly are you going to write an email that cuts through the noise and establishes a one-to-one relationship? The three steps below will help lay the foundation for successful relationship building through email marketing and selling.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
Getting an email and thinking, "who are these guys and why am I even getting this email?" can be extremely frustrating. That reaction is also the last thing you want your recipients thinking after getting an email from your company, which is part of why knowing who you're sending to is so important. Understanding your audience means being able to clearly explain two things for every email you create: which personas and segments you’re reaching out to and why you’re reaching out.
Knowing Your Personas
If you haven't identified your personas, stop now and check out the Guide on How to Create Personas. Knowing your personas will help to make sure that your messaging as a company remains consistent and on the topic of the pain points your target market is experiencing. At a minimum, you should be able to identify the relevant pain points, job responsibilities, industry and title background, and personal and professional motivators.
Knowing Your Context
When it's time to plan out an email, you'll want to identify the reason for and context of the message. The recipients should be able to quickly understand why they are receiving an email and what the point of the message is. If they can't do that, they're almost guaranteed to move on to the next message quickly.
Take a look at the email below by Automizy:
Notice that the context of the email is a follow up with a copy of an ebook from an online form submission. This email is a simple example of establishing a clear “why” for reaching out. Of note, the value of the ebook isn’t repeated since it’s already been established prior to the form submission that triggered this email in the first place. It also does a great job of reiterating what they do as a company and offers further engagement via the orange call-to-action.
Step 2: Know Your Value Prop And Make The Ask
Most people don't have enough time in their day to get through everything they need to accomplish and have more groups asking for their attention than they'd like. Think about how quickly you clear marketing emails from your inbox everyday to save time and reduce distractions.
As email marketers, we have to be aware of those attention limits and capitalize on the brief two to three seconds the average person spends deciding if an email is worth continuing to read [See: Passing the Blink Test].
On top of having a clear and relevant context for reaching out, you’ll need to have a concise and compelling “ask” and reason for having the recipient take that desired action, which could be anything from checking out a blog post to making a purchase. One of the most common marketing emails are promotions, which, despite their commonality, are rarely the best way to build relationships via email. When trying to build motivation and urgency, try tying the reason to completing an action to pain point based value rather than for discounts.
Take a look at the email below from Drift, which got a 75% open rate and a whopping 25% direct response rate:
The most powerful emails are the ones that begin dialogues. The email we just saw from Drift is simple and automated, but invites a conversation. Nobody wants to be just another person on a list getting sent impersonal emails that don’t relate to him or herself.This email is the first in the onboarding workflow they run for every trial subscriber and goes out right after someone creates his or her trial account, so the audience and context for reaching out is already clear: Drift is reaching out to someone who just signed up because they signed up. That first email after a registration has a better chance of engagement than any other in the workflow because people expect an initial touch point, so Drift is already working at an advantage in building their relationships [See: Creating a Behavioral Email Marketing Strategy].
So where is the value prop and how did Drift end up with such a high response rate?
What’s so interesting and compelling about this email is that, by nature of having signed up for a trial, Drift’s value has already been established. Instead of telling people about the value of their platform and trial, they’re asked which form of value led to the registration event and invite a personal conversation. In framing their ask—to reply with the motivation for signing up—around a person’s individual context, Drift was able to start real conversations with a quarter of the registrants. They also used personalization to have those automated emails be sent from Matt Bilotti’s email address, so there were no barriers preventing people from engaging directly.
Not every email is going to have the advantage of pre-established value, but knowing what the value of your ask is, how that value alleviates pain points, and clearly establishing relevancy to your audience will allow you to take advantage of your recipients’ attention and provide more value, more quickly.
Step 3: Write to People, Not Lists
The most powerful emails are the ones that begin dialogues. The email we just saw from Drift is simple and automated, but invites a conversation. Nobody wants to be just another person on a list getting sent impersonal emails that don’t relate to him or herself.
In an effort to run an experiment on new and highly personalized emails, HubSpot's Marketing Team started sending simple, plain text emails to select HubSpot users over this summer. The emails were sent to users that were identified as potentially being good fits for the Reporting Add-On based on their product usage. A generalized example of one of those emails is below:
Each email that went out was sent from that recipient's HubSpot Sales Representative's email address, included a link to the rep's calendar for scheduling a meeting, and an invitation to continue the conversation by replying directly. As marketing and sales emails go, these were pretty bare-boned, but the campaigns ended up being a resounding success with a 64% open rate and a 50% direct response rate, meaning half of the recipients reached out directly to their HubSpot Sales Representative to continue the conversation.
Replicating Those Lessons
So how can elements of that success be replicated in your upcoming emails? First, make sure that criteria used for segmenting an email audience are indicative of a story and pain point. Your business solves for specific needs and the segmentation should help identify which one an individual is experiencing. In the HubSpot example, each email was based off of the individual behavior of each recipient, focused on uncovering pain points they were likely experiencing based on that behavior, and provided an easily completed step for exploring a potential solution that would make their jobs easier. All they had to do was reply or book a meeting.
Second, make sure you don't forget to connect on an individual level by personalizing the emails with the recipient's name and, when appropriate, other known information. Your email may be automated, but it doesn't have to be impersonal.
Lastly, make sure they have a way to get back to you! If the timing is right and a recipient is ready to speak about moving forward, there should be an easy way for him or her to get in touch and continue to build that relationship.
The Final Note
Standing out in a digital crowd can be hard, but if you focus on solving for your persona's pain points, keep the messaging and calls-to-action simple, and write as if it was a one-to-one email, you'll be able to create better relationships with your subscribers, leads, and customers and develop a stronger funnel for it.
Nervous about where to start? Take a look at your upcoming emails and see if they follow the steps above or check out HubSpot's all new Email Marketing Certification to learn even more.