Give Them Value… or Nothing at All

Put your customer hat on for a moment: You’re a regular online shopper, and you’re registered on a number of sites selling gifts and specialty products. From time to time, you get an email from a site where you’ve made a purchase or two. No big deal.

Suddenly, Valentine’s Day season rolls around, and you find your inbox overflowing with promotions for romantic keepsakes, books, candy, flowers… and more. Much more.

Back to reality: Okay, maybe it wasn’t too bad this year. But trust me, the deluge is coming. Just wait till next year, my friend.

Now put your marketer hat on: Is this the kind of scenario you want your customer base of previous buyers to experience? Do you think they’re going to sift through a huge mass of emails just to read your one little – albeit valuable – message touting your outstanding products or services? Of course not.

But, you’ll agree: A solid retention and follow-up program IS critical to the development and maintenance of “the customer relationship.” Not to mention your sales goals.

So how do you stand out amidst the ever-growing throngs of online marketers who are taking advantage of the current power of email? The solution is a simple idea to convey, though not always as easy to implement:

Give them value, or give them nothing at all.

Value. Gotta love that word. And it’s true: If you can’t give them a valuable experience – even in the process of trying to resell them on another product or service – you may as well give them nothing. Because, frankly, they’re not going to continue to read your messages unless they are worthy. Sure, maybe they won’t unsubscribe. And they will probably never complain.

Instead, they’ll simply hit “delete” when they see your name pop up. And what good is that?

So how do you make your retention and conversion emails more valuable? First, make yourself known NOW… before the throngs even enter the picture. The idea here is to get customers to actually LOOK FORWARD to receiving your follow-up emails. Make them indispensable. Following are a few ideas on how to start building that kind of loyalty.

Lose the constant “pitch.” When I was in sales, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was to never ASK for anything from customers or prospects until I actually GAVE them something in return.

In the case of an email, that “something” could mean free information, relevant news, or an exclusive offer or discount. Sure, it sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many emails promote with those sales guns a-blazing – “Buy this:… Click here,” “Buy that:… Click there.” Few customers will continue to allow themselves to be barraged with emails that relentlessly solicit. Doesn’t matter how much you think they like your products.

Be creative. This is how you can really grab them. One idea, as the latest Forrester study suggests, is you can make up for email’s intrusion with the use of humor. Forrester gives the example of Peet’s Coffee, which emailed a New Yorker cartoon to its existing customers along with a timely reminder to buy coffee. The result? A ton of fan mail, apparently… not to mention a 32 percent click-through rate. Not too shabby.

With that in mind, think of your own future efforts and how you can capitalize on the use of creativity. For ideas, look at what other online marketers are doing across other applications to see what kinds of new ideas you can apply to email.

Take the Nike ads, for instance. What a nifty way to build traffic: a TV campaign in which every ad ends in a cliffhanger, with the “answer” to be found on the Nike site. Depending on your audience and its needs, these types of cross-channel opportunities present a wide variety of creative possibilities.

Make it easy. Whether your goal is to build traffic or sales (or both), be sure that it’s easy for the customer to fulfill your call to action. If you speak to your customers via an emailed newsletter and you want to drive them to purchase a certain product or service, make sure your link brings them directly to a specific “landing” page. This page should showcase just that product, so customers can make the purchase without browsing through your entire online store. You can also employ the use of rich media, wherein customers don’t even have to leave their email programs to buy.

Of course, those ideas just grasp the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget other relationship-builders such as the use of personalization and database enhancements. And remember – the more you give, the more you’ll get in return.

And speaking of “giving” – Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Make it a good one.

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