Rise above the email chatter

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Achieving email engagement can feel a little like getting the attention of a busy bartender: It takes a lot of time and energy to be heard over all the other voices. “Busy professionals receive a constant flux of email messages—from colleagues, clients, partners, resources, vendors—the list goes on and on. These overrun inboxes make it harder for businesses to stand out and to personally connect with customers,” said Liz Bross, VP-digital interaction at the Agency Inside Harte-Hanks. Bross will lead a webinar Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. (ET), entitled “10 Fundamental Tactics to Engage Email Subscribers,” held by the Agency Inside Harte-Hanks. Bross said companies still aren't doing a good job at welcoming new subscribers. While it's been a best practice for some time, companies aren't creating a separate nurture email list, sending out welcome letters or following up with additional messaging once prospects are fully engaged, she said. “You need to use drip marketing to nurture new subscribers until you're confident that they are engaged with you and ready to transact business,” Bross said. The initial email should include a mention of where the prospect signed up—a trade show, on your website, via an in-person sales meeting—as well as links to your website or landing pages. The tone should be less about sales and more about creating a relationship, Bross said. “If you just acquired [a potential client's email address] and have no idea which product or service they are interested in, you should send them somewhere where you can introduce your company and offerings,” she said. “It's not about promotion at all. It's introducing the company and helping prospects understand what you do and why they need to consider your product.” Subsequent emails should be based on events and how prospects react to your initial email. If someone instantly engages and clicks through, you will want to move them to your general email list. If they don't click through at all, you may want to resend the original email content with a more compelling subject line, she said. Once someone is a subscriber, you can improve engagement by periodically asking for feedback, Bross said. She suggested a short, three-to-five-question survey that asks subscribers how you can better serve them. This should go out quarterly or twice yearly, depending on your email frequency. “Set expectations, and let people know how long it will take them [to complete the survey]; and use the survey to drive information that is actually useful to you,” she said. In some cases, you can provide aggregate survey results to help subscribers re-engage with your content—especially if you can link to past newsletters or website content that relates to your topic. Finally, marketers should re-examine tone often as it can either turn readers off or help them feel more comfortable with your content. “Tone helps communicate your company culture,” Bross said. Email tone should match the tone that's reflected in other marketing channels. For example, serious-sounding emails should be avoided if company website content is light and fun. “Tone helps people learn about and like your company,” Bross said.
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