Ask any startup marketer out there and they’ll tell you: email marketing is the gold standard of early-stage marketing strategies. If marketing is the car that gets your company where it needs to go, email marketing is the Volvo. It’s affordable, it’s reliable, and it’s known for unbeatable performance.
“Email marketing is the best and most affordable way to market anything to any audience, and in a highly personal way.” says Cyberwalker Digital Founder (and email marketing expert) Andy Walker. “The return on investment is better than any other technique to reach customers. And it works for brand building and generating direct sales.”
But let’s not kid ourselves: email marketing strategy is notoriously difficult to get right. If it were easy, then everybody would be doing it better than they are. And you wouldn’t be here, reading a post about what’s missing from your email marketing strategy.
Getting users to sign up for your product through email can feel like a maze – or a very, very challenging obstacle course. If you can get a would-be customer to sign up for your email list, let you into their inbox, open your email, and click through to wherever it takes them, you’re basically the Indiana Jones of email marketing.
Andy Walker knows a thing or two about what makes an effective email marketing strategy tick. The way he sees it, there are two ingredients that every email marketing strategy needs: magnets and ice cream.
Wait, what? Stay with us. We’re going somewhere, we promise.
Before you can start wowing would-be customers with your awesome email content, you have to get into customers’ inboxes in the first place. And as anyone who’s been tasked with doing that knows, it’s the first big hurdle of email marketing.
Email is extremely personal. Most people are fiercely protective about what they allow in their inbox. Think about your own email: how many brands are you willing to let clutter it up with email blasts and promotions?
So how do you overcome inbox inertia, get past customers’ initial resistance and into their inbox? You make them an offer they can’t refuse.
No, we’re not suggesting you threaten your prospective customers with murder. We’re talking about a real, genuine offer. Something your customers want. Something they need. Something they’ll be so drawn to, they won’t be able to enter their email address to get it fast enough.
In marketing terms, this thing your customers want is called a lead magnet. The name makes sense, right? A lead magnet attracts your audience and pulls them in, just like an actual magnet would.
Lead magnets can come in all shapes and sizes: tip sheets, eBooks, even video. The format your lead magnet comes in matters way less than what it is doing: solving a problem for your audience. “Try to understand your customer’s biggest pain point, and then give away your best stuff on how to solve that,” advises Andy.
Telling you to take your best content and give it away for free might seem counterintuitive. But the truth is – you’re not getting nothing in return. In fact, you’re getting something very valuable in return. You’re getting that customer onto your email list and into your funnel. It’s hard to think of anything more valuable than that.
If email marketing is like fishing for customers, a lead magnet is the bait that lures the fish onto the hook. But once you’ve got them, you still have to reel them in. And to do that, you’re going to need some ice cream.
No, not literal ice cream. “Give them something as good as ice cream,” explains Andy. “Something that they always want. Something that delights them. Something that they want more of.”
Just like your lead magnet, your ice cream should be relentlessly problem-focused. “The idea here is also give something very specific that solve a pain point or problem of feeds a need,” says Andy. “The more specific the problem then the more curated your ice cream should be.”
In other words: there’s one thing you’re looking to do with every piece of ice cream you put out there: provide value.
We can hear the naysayers now: “But my product is my value! And my emails are valuable because they’re telling readers about my product!”
Look, friends. We’re sure your product is as great as you say it is. And yes, it would be great if customers would just sign up for our products when we want them to. But people are people, and most people need convincing before they’ll hand over their hard-won cash to some company they don’t know.
Seeing is believing. So focus your email marketing strategy around creating and serving up ice cream that gets your customers to see the value of your product, and they will believe.
So what is this ice cream that you’re patiently feeding to your audience doing for you? A couple of things.
When you serve your email audience ice cream, it shows that you’re not just there to push a product. It shows them that you’re genuinely interested in helping them out – whether that means they sign up for your product or not. Although we should stipulate, if you’ve done your job right and designed your email flow effectively, it definitely will mean signing up for your product eventually.
Not only does ice cream show that you care about your customers’ problems: it proves that you actually know how to solve them. Great ice cream establishes you as an expert in your audience’s eyes – someone they want on their side, offering advice and giving them the answers.
At the end of the day, that is what a great ice cream email marketing strategy is all about: building a relationship of trust between your audience and your brand. “People buy from people they trust,” says Andy. “So that is what you should be working towards on your list.”
Each interaction a customer has with your brand that is useful, valuable, and laser-focused on them and their needs builds that trust, and gets them that much closer to being ready to take their relationship with your brand to the next level.
Speaking of the next level, there’s a fourth thing that an email marketing strategy built on ice cream does for you: it gets results.
So far in this post, we’ve been focusing on what your email marketing should do for your audience. But make no mistake: email marketing strategy should get results for your brand, too. And if you execute the ideas above well, it will.
An effective email marketing strategy should be like laying a trail of breadcrumbs. Each email should guide the reader closer to the ultimate destination: conversion.
What’s the secret to crafting an email that converts? Andy lays out four key elements that every email should include.
Keep a radical, borderline-fanatical focus on delivering value to your readers. Always send relevant content that addresses reader’s problems – with relevant, actionable solutions – so readers start to look forward to what comes next.
Tell readers what they are going to get soon in every email where it makes sense. Attention spans are short. When it comes to emails, they’re even shorter. Bury the point under 10 lines of flowery prose and you’ll never see results.
We have a saying around the Startups office: customers don’t want to know that a solution “works.” They want to know that it works for them. So each time you make an offer, Andy says, “Show them how your freebies (and, later, paid solutions) solve problems of people like them.”
Today’s customers are savvy: they can spot inauthenticity a mile away. We’ve talked before about how important being yourself is to effective customer acquisition. Email marketing is no different: carve out an authentic voice and persona that your audience can connect with, and your chances of building the relationship to the point where customers are ready to convert go up exponentially.
See? We told you we were going somewhere. Beefing up your email marketing strategy with lead magnets and ice cream is a tried and true method for crafting an email marketing strategy that converts.
One last great thing that an email marketing strategy based on ice cream does for you: it helps weed out sales prospects that aren’t a good fit for your startup.
Okay, now we’re really messing with you, right? In what universe could losing potential customers for your brand possibly be a good thing?
Hear us out. “If your emails don’t connect, people will drop off, but that can be a good thing,” Andy observes. “What you want is a highly engaged audience, not a big one. Highly engaged audiences convert better than large, non-focused ones.”
If you’re executing your ice cream strategy well and customers are still dropping off, chances are they’re probably not the right fit for your brand anyway.
So double down on the prospects that are still with you, keep dropping those lead magnets and serving that ice cream, and we promise: the customers you want will pick up what you’re lying down.
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