I See Dead People

Since the “Jerry Maguire” title from last week caught so much attention, I thought I’d stick to that same theme to see what happens (kind of like a subject line test of sorts). Actually, though, this week’s title is completely irrelevant to the topic. It has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. Just a little Monday morning attempt at humor…

All kidding aside, based on the feedback from last week’s article on creating “welcome” messages, it seems we have a rather popular topic on our hands. And with good reason. Obviously, the way we open up the dialogue with our customers plays a critical role in our success in keeping them.

Of course, the goal is to be able to continue that dialogue, and since every good beginning often requires a middle and an end, let’s take a look at a few ways to keep customers happy and help us forestall ever having to say “goodbye.”

These tips include things you no doubt already know; yet they are vital to both our credibility and reputations as online marketers, so they bear repeating. Here are my top picks…

Position all communications as being both useful and beneficial. Definitely Numero Uno. This, of course, means that you really need to know your audience your house list of customers. And create offers and messages that truly apply or are of interest to them. Sure, it’s great to have a list of 300,000 subscribers to your “special offers” newsletter but NOT if 299,000 of them don’t even read it.

True relationship-building dialogue is about engaging those subscribers so completely that they yearn for the next issue to arrive. It’s about losing the “pitch” and, instead, having a one-to-one conversation with them. It’s also about taking a good, hard look at what people signed up for and making sure you’re truly “delivering the goods.” And be sure to weave into your messages just how those so-called goods can help them.

How do you accomplish all of this? If you don’t have a database solution in place and your list is small enough, one way is to include a fairly detailed, incentive-based survey in one or more of your messages to find out what really makes your customers tick. Then roll out with your best efforts at meeting those customers’ wants and needs.

You can also come up with other ways to gather information to determine what your customers will best respond to. Come up with a list of potential “hot buttons” and other ways to create ongoing valuable communications. For instance, months ago I had entered my grandmother’s birthday on Proflowers’ special reminder page, and I had completely forgotten about it until about a week and a half before the event, when I received that reminder email, right on schedule. Well, guess what? Proflowers got my business because of it. For me, it was all about the convenience.

Provide legitimate contact information within each and every email. If resources are limited and you can’t provide a phone number in every email, fine. But if you can’t provide a legitimate email address, then you should really rethink why you’re marketing with email in the first place. For example, I regularly receive emailed updates from a certain online graphics company. Not only are these messages 100 percent promotional in tone and hype-filled content, they also never, ever include a means to contact real people. Yes, they provide plenty of links to get back to the company’s site so I can renew… or buy more… or see its latest and greatest. But the bottom line is the company does not make it easy for me to call or to send a quick question by email if I need to – a deadly mistake. Encourage feedback, and even reward it, as noted above.

Keep your messages clean and consistent. This one’s a no-brainer, and most marketers who regularly communicate with their customers and subscribers through email don’t have any problems here. Just make sure you edit carefully and retain the same look and feel from issue to issue. Too many misspellings or misquotes or mishaps, for that matter can come across as unprofessional and true email aficionados can’t have that. (They won’t have it for long, anyway.)

When all else fails and you do get that one unhappy camper who wants to unsubscribe, then what do you do? Sure, you can send that person an email, confirming that you’re removing him or her from your list… and while you’re at it, you can make one last-ditch plea to keep him or her. If you do that, though, do it with grace and dignity. And, by all means, do not ever email that person again unless he or she asks you to. After all, you still have your reputation. And your credibility. Just let that unhappy camper go.

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