By Chuck Leddy
Marketers know that email is among the most effective tools for engaging customers. But the pure number of emails people receive each day, both work-related and personal, make it difficult to keep up. There were about 130 billion business-related emails sent per day in 2019, with each individual receiving an average of 121 emails per day. Customers seem to be looking for reasons to filter OUT email, which represents a perennial challenge for marketers trying to get their emails opened, read, and acted upon by “email overloaded” customers.
A recent Adobe survey about the effectiveness of marketing emails says everything we need to know: 75% of the emails marketers send never get opened, going completely ignored. Of those one in four that actually get opened and read, 50% of those emails aren’t considered useful by the opener. Not to belabor the point, but if you send an email to 1,000 people, that means that only 250 will even open your email and a mere 125 will find the content useful. Let’s call this what it is: an urgent engagement problem for email marketing.
4 most common complaints by email recipients
That same Adobe survey asked email recipients for their most common complaints, the reasons they either don’t open emails or don’t find value in the emails they receive. Here are the “Big Bad 4”:
- 35% of recipients report being emailed too often, and can’t/won’t manage the inbox overload;
- 25% of recipients are instantly turned off because the data/information about them is wrong: misspelling a recipient’s name doesn’t exactly invite engagement;
- 23% report that emails are poorly written, wordy, and/or don’t connect;
- 17% complain that the email is either trying to sell them something they’ve already purchased or pitching something they have no interest in buying. These are all eminently self-inflicted wounds and therefore highly curable, as we’ll detail below.
3 tips for banishing bad emails and crafting better ones
Tip 1: Data management maturity required. Relevance and personalization are key elements for effective email marketing, but require mature data management. As far as “personalization” efforts go, getting a customer’s name spelled right seems fairly basic, as does knowing a customer’s purchasing history (and not asking them to buy stuff they already have). Marketers need the capability to correct and update customer data (including demographic data like names and locations) across all their internal systems and channels in real-time. Data silo’s and multiple customer experiences in multiple channels are deadly, creating confused, irritated customers.
Beyond that simple-sounding capacity, you’ll need data management to analyze the needs and behavioral preferences of your customers. You’ll need to leverage these customer insights to craft better emails that get opened (because they address actual needs). Blasting emails to your entire list, sharing news about what you need (“buy our latest offering now!”), turns recipients off and feels like ancient marketing at its worst. With mature data management, marketers can segment customers, develop customer profiles, and tailor content to the particular needs of customers moving along their customer journey.
With mature data management and customer analytics, you can target the right content/emails to the right customer at the right time — that’s the very definition of relevance, which customers will reward with higher open rates and more conversions.
Tip 2: Omnichannel and marketing-sales alignment is a must. Customers can be found in multiple channels, a growing number of them digital. B2B marketers need an omnichannel customer engagement strategy, meaning (1) they can meet their customers on their preferred channel; (2) they can create a seamless customer experience across multiple channels (including email, of course), where customer context and data provided over one channel can be leveraged for other channels; and (3) all of this aggregated customer data can be leveraged to create more personalized and relevant CXs, including via email.
Needless to say, the need to collect and share customer data requires the alignment/integration of all internal systems that use customer data. Functions like marketing, sales, customer service, and beyond must also align around the customer, especially in the way they share information and manage hand-offs. Email messaging must be viewed within this holistic, customer-centric approach where responsibility for customer engagement cuts across the whole organization. A botched, badly-written email impacts the entire company’s customer engagement strategy, not just the marketing function. No customer touch point should be viewed in isolation by any department.
Tip 3: Storytelling and good writing will always be necessary. What customers want most is accessible and valuable content that addresses their needs. Storytelling is a needed scaffolding or framework for blending valuable information (valuable from the customer’s POV) with emotional resonance: stories will always be more engaging than “just data.” Storytelling is the backbone that connects what customers want (not just products but also belonging, reduction of pain, trust in the companies they buy from , etc.) with what the company has to offer. A company’s values (not just what you say, but what you actually do) matter too, because customers want to know that your organization can be a trusted, reliable source of relevant information, that you really do prioritize customer needs, that you stand behind what you sell.
Brand storytelling is about how companies make that emotional connection with their customers. And yes, it requires knowing your customer by having relevant data about them, it takes explaining how you align internally to serve customer needs, and it takes understanding why you do what you do as a company. If you can do this in an email, you’re speaking authentically and providing value to customers. You don’t misspell a customer’s name (because you care about such details), you don’t waste customer time by offering them products they don’t need or with long, self-important emails about you, you, you.
Emails that get opened are the ones that address a recipient’s needs in a way that shows a company cares enough (and is mature enough) to know what those needs are and how to meet them.
If you’re interested in building a mature, customer-centric infrastructure to support better email marketing, we can help – reach out to us today.