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Jessica Best Reveals How to Create Emails Your Customers Want to Read

There are a lot of things that are out of our control at the moment, but fortunately, there is one thing you still can control- Email marketing!


Jessica Best, the VP of Data Driven Marketing at Barkley, had a few exciting discoveries with email marketing over the past few weeks and she was gracious enough to share them with us.


You’ll learn:

  • How to know when your customers want to be emailed
  • How to send a high volume of emails and keep engagement metrics up
  • What to send your prospects once they’ve completed the welcome email 


Can you tell us why email marketing has been working so well recently?

A lot of marketing teams are having to reinvent their marketing strategies during these trying times, so going back to basics and focusing on connecting with customers that have already opted into your brand has been super helpful. 


Email is also a really foolproof marketing strategy because you can talk directly to your customer.


It’s important to not only send emails but also listen to what your customers are saying both through email and social media. 

If you’re managing a startup during these times and you haven’t yet grown an email list, what would you do to grow one quickly?


Start with a goal. What do you want to grow an email list for? 


Do you want to grow one with more customers? For example, when somebody checks out or buys.


Or do you want to grow a prospect or community list? These are people that you’re educating in hopes that they become customers.


On the prospect side, the question isn’t “How do I get their email address?”, Instead, it’s “How do I get their attention?”


Usually, people that succeed with growing an email list very quickly are those that either have a budget for paid media or have really strong SEO. From there, make sure that your sign up button is the easiest click possible. 

Do you have any examples of email campaigns that have performed very well lately?


One of their clients is Planet Fitness and they recently did a very successful email campaign for them. 


To give you some background, at the time, Planet Fitness was closed and did not have any gyms open. However, rather than think about how they could make money, they thought about how they could serve their community. 


In the end, they came up with the idea of “Work-ins” (rather than workouts) to keep the community engaged and give them something to do while they can’t go to the gym.


Now that their idea is formed, it’s time to write the email.


First, they thought about who they were talking to and what they wanted to know. In this case, the email was to current customers (not so much prospects) and these people likely wanted to know if their gyms were going to be open and, if not, would they still be billed?


The email opened by addressing both of those concerns and the subject line actually opened with “We’re Not Going to Charge You While We’re Closed”. 


After addressing those concerns the email continued on to talk about their home work-ins. 


The engagement on this was through the roof and their unsubscribe rates were also very low.


How do you keep emails engaging so that people like receiving a high volume (more than 1x per week) and don’t unsubscribe?


It’s all about listening to your customer and understanding what they want/need. 


So instead of thinking about how often you have something to say, instead think about how often your customer needs something that we have a solution for.


For example, at Planet Fitness, people don’t need to hear from you very often. Usually, it’s just when there is a sale or if there is an event. 


However, at the moment they’re sending emails pretty much in response to what their customers are asking, and at this moment, it’s quite a lot.


Also do realize that during a major event like the pandemic, you aren’t the only brand that’s increased the volume of emails sent. So there will be burnout.


For example, Jessica herself is quite tired of emails from random companies saying that they care about her and are there to help her during unsettling times. These kinds of emails don’t really help her as she didn’t really learn anything from it.


So be honest with yourself if the content you are sending is actually necessary.


How do you communicate with your customers to understand how often they need to be emailed and what they want? What does your customer research look like?


They’re experimenting a lot in this department at the moment. Some of them include doing data trends and modeling, creating surveys, and some lower-tech solutions like Instagram polls.


In email marketing, she also does one-click polls. For example, she ran one that looked like this with two options:


Which is most helpful to you?

a.) Turn off all email notifications

b.) Recieve tips on working out at home


Another great way to do customer research, particularly with startups and smaller businesses is to ask people to reply to your email with feedback. This is particularly true with startups where say 20% is made up of connections the founder has. These people will be able to give you some great feedback. 


You can even just send an email to your list saying, “What’s the one thing you’re most worried about right now?” 


And then listen.


Your audience will tell you.


You can also listen to your audience on social media. Your audience is talking about it, you just have to listen.


Many agencies are losing work because the first expense people want to cut when they can’t serve customers is marketing. How do you handle clients that want to cut marketing?


A great start is just showing them that if they turn everything off, they won’t have a business when everything comes back on.


She also gave me the example that Planet Fitness is actually investing more in marketing at the moment so that everyone will have seen Planet Fitness while they weren’t able to go to the gym.


As a result, these home work-ins have not only been a great solution to keep their current customers engaged, but it’s also been attracting a lot of new customers that will remember Planet Fitness when the quarantine is over.


She also has some clients that are restaurants. For example, she was working with IHOP and Dairy Queen and rather than turn off the marketing, they just shifted the message to show their customers that they can still support them with curbside pickup.


She also has a client that is an RV dealership. In this case, the dealership really can’t do a lot to help their customers and they can’t offer anything like curbside pickup. 


Instead, they have a website that essentially allows you to construct your own RV with layouts and features.


Therefore, when customers can come to the lots, they know exactly what they’re looking for and it will hopefully have kept them excited.


They also did their customer research and realize that the buyer journey for an RV usually lasts about 2 years. So if you stop supporting them with marketing during that time, you’re going to be in trouble when they are ready to buy.


About 40% of businesses don’t have a welcome email. Why is it important to have one and what should it include?


Think about your lead magnet and what the next logical step in the buying process would look like. 


For example, if you just sent them a coupon, show them some styles relevant to the coupon and what they might like. If you’re in B2B and they just downloaded a lead magnet on SEO, offer to show them a guide to startup SEO.


Your welcome email really serves as a conversation starter and you may have more of a welcome series than a welcome email.


A common problem a lot of people see is that their customers might download the 10% discount but still haven’t used it a week later. Now what?


Well, they might have realized that shipping costs are too high or they aren’t sure what color to buy. 


So if they haven’t used their coupon yet, you might wave the shipping costs or send them some inspiration (Pinterest/Instagram style). 


In B2B it’s even easier. If you have someone that downloaded a whitepaper on content marketing, you could then send them your top-performing article on content marketing. 


Many brands get stuck after the welcome sequence and tend to send generic news. What should they send on a regular basis?


Some brands do a great job of being the news authority for their space. Even if you are competing with TechCrunch’s news, some people may not like the cadence or style of it. Just make sure that you’re presenting the news in a different way- that could be a different format, a different viewpoint, maybe even something more behind the scenes.


However, a better way to think about sending regular updates is to think about where the customer is in the buying journey with your brand.


Instead of looking at the calendar and thinking that you need to send something in February, March, April, think of sending one after they’ve downloaded something on design tips, then you can show them how to code it, then you can give them a discount on if you code it for them, etc.


Look at their pain and just send them something based on that pain.


Think of your email marketing as nurture rather than news.


If you’re still stuck or you don’t have a lot of time to create an autoresponder, consider taking your highest performing content piece and making it part of your first onboarding email.


What is your opinion on email alternatives such as Facebook messenger and other chats?


So far, Facebook messenger is intriguing but not scalable. 


It has been good for customer service and engagement as you can lead them through a chat sequence for general questions, it hasn’t proven to really be a lead generation option.


It also hasn’t really been tested for a lot of 1 to many conversations. For example, usually, the customer first sends a message to the brand and he/she expects to get a response from a person. However, a brand would have more difficulty sending a single message to a lot of people at once as people on these platforms aren’t used to that yet.


A lot of messages can also go to a separate inbox which means that most people won’t even see your content.


Linkedin: Jessica Best 

Twitter: @bestofjess


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