October 19, 2010
How To

Crafting Relevant Email Messages: How to learn from your audience

SUMMARY: At our 7th annual B2B Marketing Summit in San Francisco, one of the biggest takeaways was to put yourself in your customers' shoes. Consumer marketers face the same challenge.

For email marketers, that means getting the right \"voice\" in your email, which is essential to building relationships with subscribers. In this issue, we've taken an excerpt from our Best Practices in Email Marketing Handbook to show you how to gather feedback from your brand's most passionate advocates and help tweak your emails' voice.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

"Love your customers, not your products," said Daryl Nielson, Marketing Manager, Email B2B, HP, at the 7th annual B2B Marketing Summit in San Francisco. "Use the tone and terminology people are using when they communicate with you."

One of the biggest takeaways from this month's West Coast swing of the B2B Marketing Summit was to put yourself in your customers' shoes. This same challenge faces consumer marketers as well.

"Put yourself in the shoes of the people receiving your email. What distractions do they have? What matters to them?" asked Jeanne Jennings, Consultant, Email Marketing Strategy and MarketingSherpa Email Trainer.

Before the East Coast swing of our B2B Marketing Summit in Boston at the end of this month, we wanted to help our B2B email marketers learn from your customers to craft email messages that resonate. In other words, find your voice. (And pay attention consumer marketers, these same lessons apply to you.)

The Voice of Brand Evangelists

The voice of your email copy is part of the persona of your brand. It comes from market research rather than A/B split testing. The uniqueness and consistency of your copy's voice is especially important for a product or service that's heavily commoditized, because the voice can be a significant barrier to competition.

Even if your product or service isn't heavily commoditized, the accessibility of the Internet and blog information has "flattened" out previous competitive advantages. If you don't have a distinct, memorable brand -- invent one.

Aside from performing traditional market research (focus groups, surveys, etc.) and finding out why your customers buy, one of the best ways to hone your brand is to see it through the eyes of your evangelists.

If someone is truly an evangelist, they'll feel as if they own your brand. They'll proactively tell you what your brand is about, what they love about you, and everything you're doing wrong. If you do something that rings false -- off-brand copy, off-brand offers, etc, or if you make an error -- members of your evangelist community will be the first to let you know.

Check out these three strategies, excerpted from MarketingSherpa's Best Practices in Email Marketing Handbook, for capturing evangelist feedback that can be used to help guide your decisions around copy, promotion and subject lines.

Strategy #1. Systematically capture evangelist-generated feedback

Customer service is often the first place evangelists turn when they want to make their opinions known, especially if they perceive a "foul" in strategy or execution. Most often the feedback comes in the form of emailed complaints, but sometimes evangelists will contact you via phone, a visit to a store, a Web form submission, or even by snail mail.

Set up a system and train your customer-facing departments (customer service, field sales, and retail stores) to:
o Recognize evangelists based on attributes you've identified
o Provide feedback such as terminology often used by your evangelists, their likely industries or job titles, or their special requests ("Please make sure this comment gets to your management.")
o Capture both written and oral feedback
o Put in place a standard form and process for capturing feedback

If your customer service rep has recognized some feedback as coming from an evangelist, enable them to acknowledge the evangelist as a "friend" of the brand. Also, plan on responding to your evangelist's compliments and concerns as quickly as possible.

Strategy #2. Troll the Internet

Your evangelists won't necessarily share their feedback with you directly, especially if they have a recent beef with your brand. They'll blog, post comments and use social media to share their applause and gripes.

To find out what your evangelists and other customers and prospects are saying about you, you can use sites like:
o Search engines
o Social networks such as Twitter and YouTube
o Technorati
o Online customer reviews

Online feedback is a true treasure trove -- not only do you get unadulterated feedback, you'll find the terms people are using to describe their pain points, possible solutions, key players in your market place, and a possible source of new product ideas as well as terms for search engine marketing.

For example, Hallmark has a very private extranet for customer who are perfect for their product. They depend on the system to learn what words and topics are important to their ideal customers and use that information to invent new cards.

Strategy #3. Record your evangelists on video

As part of your research, plan to video or audio record an interview with evangelists. While presenting their written comments can be useful, there is nothing more powerful than seeing the body language, facial expressions, passions and concerns of a true fanatic.

You can use the video or audio recording to help guide your agencies and copywriters. You can also use to bolster your arguments when others suggest strategies that go against your brand. The content can also be repurposed for publishing via your company blog, email newsletter or YouTube channel.

Useful links related to this article

MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Summit '10 -- Boston, October 25-26

Sherpa Bookstore: Best Practices in Email Marketing Handbook

Members Library: Saturn's Mega-Event Inspires Evangelism through WOM and Social Media Channels

Members Library: Viral Email Nets 100% Response from Brand Champs

B2B Marketing Summit '10 Wrap-up: Seven takeaways to help you engage potential customers, generate high-quality leads and more

SherpaBlog: Market Research via Social Media




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