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Email marketing: selling things vs sharing ideas

Email marketing: selling things vs sharing ideasThere is no better way to send your email subscribers scrambling for the “Unsubscribe” link than directing a constant stream of sales pitches their way. If you want your subscribers to be glad they gave you their email addresses, you may want to consider teaching them as opposed to selling to them. This article will discuss email marketing: selling things vs sharing ideas.

Estimated reading time – 4 minutes

Email marketing – one chance to earn trust

Let’s pause for just a moment and say a constant stream of sales pitches might work if you’re a deal-of-the-day kind of business like Groupon or Living Social. You know, where the whole business model is based on a finite supply of a certain item. If you’re a business like this, just stop reading now. Still reading? Let’s continue.

Nowadays, people are very hesitant to give out their email addresses, even though they know it’s very easy to unsubscribe or mark a message as spam. Why? People don’t want to feel like they’re making a bad decision. Think about it this way – a person giving you their email is a sign of trust. It’s also one of the early steps in the buying process for many businesses. If we take this person’s precious email account and fill it with advertisements, we’re likely to lose that person’s trust. Even worse, our status with this person is less than neutral, because he or she now had a negative experience.

The “selling things” approach

Have you ever gotten an email with the subject line “following up” or “checking in” or “touching base?” Shouldn’t the subject line really have just been “would you like to buy what I’m selling?” The vast majority of both automated email systems and individual salespeople use this exact strategy. Does it work better than doing nothing? Of course. Does it earn trust? Nope.

Sales 101 says one of the most important things to do is follow-up, right? So how do we accomplish this without pestering people to buy our stuff?

Sharing ideas instead of “following up” or “checking in” or “touching base”

When we send emails to prospects, wouldn’t it be worth their while if we told them something that is important to them? Important things to prospective customers include cost of ownership, drawbacks to buying what you’re selling, stories of people like them, etc. Since you interact with customers specific to your business all the time, wouldn’t it benefit your potential customers to hear about those experiences?

If we adopt a mindset of sharing ideas instead of just selling things, then our potential customers will actually value the emails we’re sending. Can you see why they’d feel better about you – and more confident about the decision to do business with you – if you’re the one educating them? So, here’s the easy part…

Where should I get these ideas to share?

If you’ve read most other parts of our website, you see that we propose using your website to teach your customers. As a quick summary, if you transform your website from a commercial about your company into a teaching tool, your potential customers will trust you. As a result, they will be much, much more likely to do business with you. Oh, and it also helps you get found when people search Google for answers to their questions, too. So, here’s your two-step process for email marketing 

  1. Start writing articles on your website that teach your customers
  2. Use these articles as links in emails you send so you can educate your prospects

An example to use with an accounting firm

Let’s say you run an accounting firm in Wisconsin. Here’s an easy way to use this strategy: A gentleman downloads your eBook “10 Things to consider when setting up a company in Wisconsin,” so you have his email address. One week later, you could send an email with one of two subject lines. Which one is going to be more effective?

  1. “Following up on the eBook you downloaded” or
  2. “LLC vs S-Corp – what makes more sense for the business you’re starting?”

Inside email #2, you could link to an article you wrote about LLCs vs S-Corps. Instead of just “following up” or “checking in” or “touching base” you could give this potential client some great information to help him out with his decision. By the way, you can also check to see if he read the email, if he clicked on the article, what actions he took after clicking on the article, etc. Find out how by subscribing to my newsletter.

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About the Author

Spencer helps you save time through teaching digital marketing and social media strategies in plain English, after proving they actually work for himself and his company AmpliPhi first. He also is an instructor at the University of Wisconsin and Rutgers University.

Spencer X Smith

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