Email marketing is a powerful way to maximize your customer acquisition efforts. It can help turn interested leads into users, inactive users into regular users and active users into long-term, paying customers.
Someone asked me last week:
How do you go about writing emails? You seem to have a unique style that focuses on customer acquisition without being salesy – what would you recommend we do to email like that?
A tricky question, really. What can you do to get sales without sounding salesy?
When I was responding to this customer I realized: there is one thing that every successful business does when using email marketing effective to acquire customers.
They give back.
Every single company I’ve seen doing a really good job of marketing emails that drive sales does so by giving the customer something they want first, rather than simply asking for a sale. The really good businesses do give the customer what they want before the customer even asks. The phenomenal business keep doing it over and over again.
So what can you give back to your customers? Here are some approaches and examples to help you tackle that very question and be successful with your email marketing when it comes to customer acquisition.
Make them feel good
One way to give back is to think about how you can make your customers feel good, literally. Remember: customers buy based on emotion. How can you ensure they ‘feel the love’.
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It can be as simple as the wording you use when emailing your customers or the triggers you use as points for notification.
Take LinkedIn’s endorsement emails. These are a great example of positive re-enforcement that makes the recipient feel good.
Customers sign up to LinkedIn for many reasons, one of which is to build up their professional profile: after all, LinkedIn is on its way to becoming the de-facto resume for a lot of people. This is important and LinkedIn understands the power of helping their customers build great profiles.
I think this campaign is a great example of a campaign that makes the customer feel good as they generally come out of the blue. Triggered when someone endorses you for a skill (usually thanks to LinkedIn asking them to), LinkedIn are giving you that extra bit of profile juice without you even asking for it. Nice.
Buffer use email marketing to similar effect, giving you friendly nudges when your Buffers run out. Of course these emails are designed to increase engagement (and ultimately the chance that you’ll become a paying customer) but they’re successful because they actually help you, the customer. They give back by ensuring you keep your Buffer topped up. This is important as they key reason customers sign up to Buffer is to make it seem as though they are consistently tweeting great content. Ideally, these users don’t want their buffers to run out!
They’re another great example of email marketing that successfully gives the user something useful instead of explicitly asking for a sale.
Google use email a lot and, although their emails are consistently simple, they usually pack a punch. If you’re an AdWords customer you have probably received a campaign that looks a little like this:
Google’s Keyword Tool is a powerful beast. By feeding your keywords into their giant brain they tell YOU what keywords you could use to maximize your clicks. Of course more clicks equals more sales but Google don’t email you and simply say “Increase your daily spend by 100%!” they send you some information you can actually use (to ultimately achieve the same result).
Continuing to make customers feel good shouldn’t end with the first sale, after all you want them to come back and buy again and again.
Zappos are a classic example of a company that uses great customer service combined with great email marketing to give customers something back. Famously, Zappos will automatically upgrade customers to faster shipping from time-to-time, just to be nice.
If that sort of campaign doesn’t make you feel good then I don’t know what will! The concept, combined with the great copy in this email, deliver a great example of a powerful marketing strategy. What can you give you customers that will make them feel special? Even better, how can you write copy that makes your customers feel special just by reading it?
On that note, perhaps one of the greatest examples of email copy out there is this campaign from Derek Sivers. Mentioned before on this blog, Derek’s email was so popular that people shared it everywhere (Google it). Derek himself attributes that single article to thousands of new customers. That’s the power of giving back: even if it’s just giving your customers that warm, fuzzy feeling!
If you’re a B2B business a great example of a campaign that makes customers feel good and will noticeably lift your paid conversions, is to send customers that churn before subscribing and offer them an extended free trial a few weeks later. Think about it: what is your average acquisition cost? Relative to this cost the price of sending an email and offering another trial is negligible and when compared to the gain you’ll see on your conversion metrics. Sprout Social and HelpScout both do an excellent job of this. If you want to see HelpScout’s email in action check out how to setup your ‘Hail Mary Email‘. Here’s a copy of Sprout’s re-activation email:
Educate, educate, educate!
The other approach in customer acquisition strategy is to educate.
One of the easiest ways to give back is to write about what you know. Write about what your business does: share this with your customers and they’ll love you for it.
Why? Because you spend every waking minute thinking about your subject area and have great things to share.
If your excuse is “but I’m not an expert!”, you’re wrong! The truth is you know a whole lot more than nearly everyone who will be reading your great content, if not simply because you’ve started a business in your given subject matter area, so give it a go.
There are lots of ways to approach sharing this great educational content with your customers. Start by sending a series of genuinely educational emails as part of your customer activation . A great example of this comes from GetResponse, who send an eight-part series on improving your email marketing campaigns with GetResponse.
Before you even get to an educational welcome series how about reviewing your welcome email and reworking it to make it killer? Olark have one of the best getting started emails you’ll ever receive. It’s extremely clear, good looking, has a prominent call to action and is, generally, a very helpful email educating each new user on how to get started with Olark. In two words: do this.
Email can also be an important part of a broader strategy for educating your customers. HelpJuice founder Emil swears by his webinar campaigns. He has a series of emails that go out every week inviting new users to webinars he runs specifically for them. Using email to setup and remind customers about your webinars is a great way to give yourself a platform to educate your customers face-to-face.
KISSmetrics also employ this customer acquisition tactic with regular webinars on all sorts of very relevant marketing topics drawing on their fantastic blog and email analytics experience.
Perhaps the most basic, and never to be overlooked, method of giving back is to send your customers regular newsletters with a simple structure and genuinely useful tips. At Vero we’ve implemented ‘Tip of the week’ emails that have been proving an excellent means of activating older users who may have abandoned their initial trial.
The same goes for delivering blog posts or resource updates too. Wistia, the video hosting company, do a great job with their simple, focused update emails. Not surprisingly they use video in their educational resources – and they’re awesome!
So where can you begin? Think about the most relevant format for your business. Should you be using videos? Are webinars the best approach for you? Perhaps you should setup a series of welcome emails, or start with a series of educational emails as part of a lead generation engine or simply re-vamp your initial welcome email!
So remember…give something back!
Get out there and give back. The examples above are all fine case studies from companies, both B2C and B2B, that use email marketing to increase their customer activation and do so effectively. The common denominator amongst all of these campaigns is their focus on giving back to the customer: on giving their customers useful information that solves their problems.
They are not salesy at all. They don’t ask explicitly for the sale.
This is a powerful lesson to remember. What strategies have you used that have resulted in increased sales and customer acquisition without being explicitly ‘salesy’?