Creative Email Marketing
FOR BRANDS WITH A MESSAGE WORTH SPREADING
(This is Part 6 of our 6 Part Marketing Automation Mastery Series. If you want to see all the topics we cover in this series, click here.)
Did you know that Elon Musk is actually terrified of Artificial Intelligence?
While that makes about as much sense as someone with a severe peanut allergy working on the production line at Planters, it poses an interesting question.
Can man and machine live in harmony?
Can pixels and people cohabitate and collaborate?
Now, I can’t promise that Elon, a.k.a. Captain Contradiction is wrong, but I can provide a glimmer of hope before the robots come knocking on your door.
This may feel like a hard pivot, but I’m going to now make the case for doing the unscalable…
That is, deciding to not automate parts of your customer experience.
“But Admiral Automater, why would you do such a thing? You were just selling me on the idea! I already started automating a weekly robocall to my mom so I can earn back some Netflix binge time!”
Ever heard the phrase, “too much of a good thing”?
Nowhere does that apply more than with automation.
Setting Scale Aside
Up to this point, I’ve been evangelizing how impactful automation can be in your business, and that isn’t going to change.
But the coup de grâce, the crescendo, the behind-the-curtain clarity that I’m hoping emerges from this final piece of the puzzle is that you can truly make a difference in someone’s life when you get intentional and resourceful in the way you do business.
With this entire Marketing Automation Mastery Series, my goal is to shift your perspective on three things:
- Some stuff should be automated.
- Other stuff shouldn’t be.
- The stuff that isn’t should be powerfully personal.
Using the Manual Muscle
The extra special non-automatables fall into what we call The Hybrid approach. This is where marketing automation and meatspace intersect – where the person behind the business actually creates a connection with the customer.
That doesn’t mean you’re inherently sandbagging your growth because “it doesn’t scale.” In fact, by being strategic and ruthlessly efficient in the personal touch, you can skyrocket the growth of your business.
Forewarning: This article isn’t going to load you up with countless examples of what other people are doing. Philosophically and practically, I’ve seen that approach backfire too often and those sample seedlings of ideas get too firmly implanted as “what I should be doing too” instead of showing you how to find your own version of high-touch.
You’ll come to find that with customer experience, there’s no rules.
You Do You
What might be downright damaging in one business could be the single reason people want to do business with you.
Case in point, Dicks Last Resort Restaurant, where the staff literally insult you and make fun of you. As they say, “one man’s pending lawsuit is another man’s unique selling proposition.”
…they say that, right?
Anyway… when it comes to finding your own way of balancing manual and machine, how do you strike the balance?
High-Tech Meets High-Touch
Right now, you’re staring at a screen instead of basking in the amber glow of a sunset dancing across the glassy surface of a pristine lake while the fading light gently bathes you in the warm hug of a waning summer sun.
…but I just put a nice little image in your head. And maybe you even felt a little something with the pleasant picture I painted for you.
Imagine if I knew that actually, your personal paradise was nestled upon the snow-swept slopes of a majestic mountain, carefully cradling a piping hot cup of Earl Grey as it’s earthy aroma mingles with the gentle scent of fallen aged pines that construct the woody walls of the quaint cabin you’re cozily cuddled warmly inside.
Perhaps you just felt the pang of your inner adventure-seeker. Or, maybe one of those images inspired a twinge of regret that it’s been so long since you truly detached from work and remembered to enjoy life.
Either way, I’m guessing you had some sort of reaction. And my ability to generate a specific reaction in you is expanded exponentially the more I know about you.
When you take the time to get to know who your readers are, what they want, and what their deep emotional drivers are, then technology can actually be one of the most powerful ways to bring humanity back into your brand and create connections.
It’s storytelling at scale. Telling them the tale of their pending success in the words they would use to describe it.
Humanizing Your Brand
Ironic that we’re talking about technology as a way to be more human, eh?
Let’s look at an example of how automation and technology can magnify your impact and create deeper levels of connection in record time.
You decide, “you know what, I like what this guy is saying. I think I’ll start using more automation.”
You go to good ol’ Google and find a system that looks promising. It’s a little confusing and you’re not exactly sure how you’re going to use it, but you give it a go.
You plop in your credit card info, and with equal parts enthusiasm and skepticism, you click the “Buy Now” button. The page refreshes and you’re met with a welcome video that greets you with the next steps to get started.
“Hey, this actually looks easier than I thought!”
You walk through a few simple tutorials and you’re making more progress than expected.
Your phone let’s you know you’ve got an email waiting. Like the well-trained creature of habit you are, you swipe to see what it is.
“A personal video for you, Joe!”
Hmm, personal video? Really?
You open the email to the smiling face of someone you don’t yet know, but they seem pretty happy to meet you! You click the video in curious anticipation.
“Hey there, Joe! Sarah here. I saw you signed up for our new tool and I’m so happy to have you join us! I see you’re in the fitness industry. I had pizza for lunch, don’t judge me, hah! Looks like you already got started on the tutorial. That’s great! I just wanted to let you know that if you get stuck, you can click the live chat button in the bottom right at any time and we’re here to help. Best of luck, and never hesitate to reach out!”
Within 10 minutes of signing up, you’re ready to write a love letter about what an amazing company this is. You feel like you’ve made a personal connection and whatever anxiety you had before melted away and all that’s left is raw enthusiasm.
Was this a fully automated, totally hands-off touchpoint? No. But the 30 seconds it took to do the manual work just elevated all of the automations to astronomical levels of impact. Put another point on the board for The Hybrid Approach.
“Wow” Requires Work
I’m going to tell you something right now, and I hope you’re all ears…
This level of high-touch experience is far easier than you think, and eventually, it’s going to be the standard.
If you think you can’t do this, then you can’t afford not to.
Prioritizing just ONE high-impact experience like this could change the entire course of the relationship you have with that customer.
Not only does that mean they’re going to stick around for years to come, but most importantly, it could make them feel for the first time ever that they actually believe they can get the results they’re seeking, that someone is going to be there for them, and that someone sincerely cares.
Get Locked and Loaded
The tools make it so easy to do, you’ve really got no excuse.
If you can find me another action that could reliably impact a customer more positively than the 30 seconds it takes to make a connection like that… then let me know, because you’re going to make me a billionaire and I’m retiring to that cozy cabin on the mountain with my Earl Grey.
The best part is that you can hook up these surprisingly affordable tools that automate the entire process so that all you have to do is flip on your phone camera, give them a warm greeting, and the tech takes care of the rest.
Truth be told, this is just one example of using high-tech tools to deliver high-touch experiences. There are hundreds of other ways to overdeliver, if you know how. Learn how to leverage a handful of tools and you’re going to blow your competition out of the water when it comes to customer experience.
So, feeling inspired? I hope so, because for now, technology is still on our side, and Elon… well, he can have his laugh when the robots come a’ knocking. For the moment, we can at least make some customers pretty dang happy.
In the meantime, let’s look at why you may actually want to come in 3rd place…
The Race for Third Place
Starbucks (not coincidentally where I’m writing this right now) has a policy – more of a mission, really – that they do a pretty dang good job living up to…
“We want our stores to be the third place, a warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect.” (source)
The “third place” refers to the fact that everybody already has two other important places: home and work. Their goal is to earn their spot as your third place… one of the Top 3 most important “homes” you go to.
The Dawn of Digital Homes
For more and more of us, that third place becomes our online communities or social media groups. Somewhere you can go, sing it with me, “where everybooody knows your name.”
At the time of writing this, we’re in the middle of the COVID crisis. Never has there been a more transformative shift in the way we live, socialize, and do business. Almost all of our “second” and “third” homes have dissolved overnight. Your home has quite literally become the one and only place that you physically exist.
Spoiler: Most humans get bored being trapped in one location for too long.
That means that even more so, people are looking for other places to go – and when you can’t leave the house, your options become what’s available to you through the seductive screen you’re staring at in this very moment.
There’s no shortage of places to wander in the digital landscape, which is why it’s even more important that people see you as a safe, inviting, entertaining, helpful, supportive, and exciting place to hang out.
But that privilege isn’t given, it’s earned. And don’t expect your subscribers to spend their precious time on your brand just because you happen to be the proud proprietor of a growing catalogue of content.
A home is a home because you feel at home. If you’ve ever gone back to visit somewhere you used to be a regular but everyone you knew is gone, you’ll recognize quite quickly, a home is the people, not the place that matters.
Your job, then, is to make everyone who walks through your digital door feel like it’s their birthday and you’ve got a big ol’ slice of their favorite cake waiting for them.
Roll Out the Red Carpet
We love the comfortable feeling that we get from familiarity. And since we established that the happy homey feeling is more about people than places, what are you doing to make your brand best buds with every fresh-faced subscriber that slides into your email list?
Like it or not, this begins the second they sign up, and your window of opportunity to put the benevolent ball in motion starts rapidly rolling downhill soon after. Onboarding, therefore, is your chance to show the subscriber you’re worthy of booting Starbucks out of their Top 3 and making you their new happy home.
Onboarding Your Followers
When we say “onboarding” we’re really talking about having a structured, consistent, repeatable process for welcoming someone into your brand and helping them get the best possible results.
Our favorite way to do this is to blend scalable automations with a personal touch that magnifies the entire experience.
No matter how you choose to welcome your new subscribers and customers, make sure you frontload the effort.
Put your best foot forward, and dedicate the resources and effort toward the earlier touchpoints you can. The better of an impression they get at the beginning, the more fanatical they’ll become from every other interaction, and the more forgiving they’ll become for little flubs along the way.
Not sure what the best welcome experience would be?
You’ve got a few ways to dig for gold…
Finding What Works
When it comes to serving up memorable moments, you’ve got a few ways to figure out what’s worth your time and effort.
- Ask your followers. The answer isn’t in the building, as Steve Blank says.
- Try something, then see how it goes.
- Look at what your competitors are doing and see where it’s lacking.*
*I always caution against simply trying to improve on what other people are doing. By definition this means you’re not trying to be different. And as we always say, different is better than better.
Since option 3 is fairly self-explanatory and honestly not my favorite route, let’s talk about the first two.
Ask About Awesome
Talking to your subscribers and customers will always lead to better answers than just guessing.
If you’re trying to create an amazing experience, you can do two powerful things to get this information:
- Find your happiest customers and figure out what you already did right.
- Talk to each new customer and ask what would make it a great experience.
Happy Customer Feedback
I typically find the first option to be pretty effective. It’s not uncommon to totally overlook something that’s already your “superpower” that you’re taking for granted. You may be so naturally good at something that’s creating a great experience that you don’t recognize you’re doing it.
I’ve seen this a lot with highly empathetic coaches and creators. They just naturally engage with their audience on such a deep level that they don’t realize they’re cultivating more impactful connections than 99% of their competitors.
Learning more about this will teach you where you can double down on your strengths.
New Customer Feedback
When it comes to asking new customers, there are a few brilliant benefits to starting your relationship with an email genuinely asking “how can I help?”
First, you’re showing you’re accessible. Sure, it isn’t “scalable” but to find what’s worth scaling, sometimes you’ve got to pound the pavement with some legwork.
Second, when someone replies to an email (even if it was an automated email they’re replying to), that builds up your domain reputation and whitelists you as a trusted sender in their inbox. This means you’re building up your relationships and deliverability. That’s a win-win!
Lastly, this gives you an automated way of constantly gathering feedback from your new subscribers and customers so you can detect shifting opinions that you may need to address.
For example, you can be sure that the answers to the question “What’s currently your biggest challenge?” would have shifted massively following the COVID crisis. By already having a process in place for collecting this data, you’d start seeing where your audience’s concerns and needs started shifting to so you could immediately create helpful content for them.
Worst case, if you’re unable to collect any data to form an educated guess – which should be a rare situation – then sometimes you’re left with some trusty spaghetti and a waiting white wall. And I bet I don’t need to tell you what to do with that…
Send that idea spaghetti airbourne and get a pen and paper ready to crown a winner for Most Persistent Pasta.
In essence, try things out and see what works.
This isn’t actually a terrible option, but if you’re going to try a lot of different things, here are a few key points:
Measure, Measure, Measure
To be confident in what works, you need to know what success looks like. If it’s satisfaction ratings, then measure that. If it’s Yelp reviews, monitor that. Whatever it is, know how to pick a winner. Make sure whatever metric you choose is actually tied to something that directly moves the business forward.
Keep Your “Build, Measure, Learn Loop” as Brief as Possible.
Come up with an idea, quickly build a way of testing that idea, give it a shot, measure it, and look at what the data says. Wondering if people would like a personal welcome video? (hint: they always do) Get a free trial of something like Bonjoro, commit to sending a video to each new subscriber for a week, and measure how many replies you get. Easy test.
Ideas Are Worthless.
Learn to fall out of love with “ideas” in general. It all comes down to execution.
Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. First off, it’s generally good advice to avoid forcing your pegs into unwilling holes. Secondly, it’s only action and results that matter, not how “clever” an idea is.
Some things you think would crush it totally fall flat. Other times, you may think something is insignificant and it turns out to be surprisingly powerful.
Base your decisions on data, nothing else.
Marketing Automation Mastery doesn’t come just from reading about it. You’ve got to put it into practice. And I’ll make you one promise with 100% certainty…
If you take the time to execute on just ONE of the strategies in this series, you’ll immediately recognize how powerful it is.
There’s no need to wait! Dive in, double down on different, and start dropping jaws, knocking socks, and blowing minds with incredible experiences.
Your followers, subscribers, customers, clients, and critics are all watching and waiting for you to do something different. Something incredible. Something worth talking about.
Please, recognize that your business success can’t be divorced from your ability to truly impact people.
The more seriously you take your responsibility to create meaningful change in the lives of those you serve, the more you’ll be rewarded in the form of loyalty, recognition, and of course, revenue.
Marketing Automation Mastery Wrap Up
Well, folks… we did it.
It was a long road. We talked about blenders, air fryers, gyms, movies, popcorn, and every other totally-not-related-to-marketing-but-somehow-totally-related-to-marketing metaphor I could scrounge from the recesses of my mind.
My goal is that you’re walking (or better, frolicking) away from this with a few nuggets of insight into just how magical your marketing can be when you look at it as a tool for creating value rather than just extracting it.
With the right approach and some resourceful execution, your marketing can quite literally become part of your product or services. It can be the thing that creates a connection with your audience that can’t be unseated by a cheaper competitor or flashy new business on the block.
Each time you think about how to serve your customers and wow your followers, I hope you pull a He-Man and proudly proclaim, “I have the POWER!”
…because buddies and buddettes, you’ve got so much more than you think.
We’re a strategy-first email marketing agency that helps you master your messaging, build lasting relationships with your customers, and create email strategies and systems to grow your income and impact.
Still hazy-eyed and sluggish, you take the first sip of coffee to start your day.
Ahhh… sweet, sweet outsourced energy.
You boot up the computer, which miraculously lights up without any caffeine coursing through its circuits… unimaginable.
You open your email and are immediately bombarded with dozens of brands trying to steal a minute of your attention. They’re selling something, and you probably aren’t buying.
Have you ever been at the gym and see someone using a piece of equipment totally wrong?
I mean, like, “that person is going to hurt themselves but I can’t look away” kind of wrong.
Well, I hate to say it, but when you jump into building automations with knowing what you’re doing, most end up looking like…
Much like the way cranberries somehow found their way into every known juice on the planet, automation technology is digging its digital hooks into almost everything we do.
In the right hands, this tech can be one of the most powerful ways to ensure that every single subscriber gets a consistently positive (and personalized) experience with your brand.