By Anissa Starnes
Director, National Organizations, Constant Contact
Don’t wait for foot traffic to slow down or your new business pipeline to dry up before figuring out that your customers just aren’t that into your business anymore. Before they reach that point, customers often leave clues that their feelings are starting to change.
At first, the signs are subtle. Customers are less responsive to your marketing efforts, they come in less frequently, and they stop referring new business. When you ask them if everything is okay, they tell you everything is fine. Still, you know something is off but you can’t put your finger on it. While you can’t read their minds, you can read the signs they leave behind, most often in the way they respond to your email marketing campaigns.
Three Subtle Signs Customers Are Pulling Away
By digging into your email marketing results, you can see the subtle cues that customers are starting to pull away. The three areas you want to pay closest attention to are:
- Open rates: Look at how many of your customers are opening your email and compare the results over a period of time, say three to six months.
- Click through rates: This refers to the percentage of your customers who actually click on the article and offers, giving you a clear picture into which content was most effective.
- Social sharing: This gives you insight into what customers do with your email once they read it such as forwarding it to a friend or sharing it on social media.
But don’t just take those metrics at face value. Two other variables that can impact your results are when and how you send email. Look at when the majority of your customers open your messages and use that to determine the best time to hit the send button.
In terms of how you reach customers, keep in mind that if you use a personal email address like AOL, Gmail or Comcast, there’s a higher likelihood that your email will get stuck in a spam filter and never reach your customers. To avoid this fate, work with an email service provider because their deliverability rates are 95 percent or greater.
It’s Not You. . . . Well, Maybe It Is You
Sometimes taking a closer look at your email results can feel a bit like stepping on the scale after the holidays. After the initial shock wears off, you’re ready to reinvent how the world sees you. So if your email results are looking a bit sluggish, ask yourself the following three questions:
- Is it too promotional? Aim for an 80/20 balance between content and offers. The most effective content informs your audience or teaches them something new that will benefit their lives in some way, but is not an overt push for your products or services. For example, a yoga studio might offer a list of tips or feature a video on stretches to help loosen tight neck muscles. The accompanying offer could be for an upcoming seminar on stress reduction or a special rate on a stretching class.
- Is there too much content? When it comes to determining the proper length for your email, follow Jerry Seinfeld’s sage advice about always going out on a high note. Customers will look forward to hearing from you when you share short articles and tips in a format they can digest in fewer than 10 minutes.
- How often are you sending email? In terms of frequency, small businesses that are most successful with email marketing reach out to their customers on a quarterly or monthly basis.
The Road to Engagement
Now that you know the subtle signs and actions that can have a big impact, here are some ways to engage, or re-engage your customers.
- Update your contact list: It’s okay to delete contacts that have been unresponsive to your emails. Before you remove them from your list, however, reach out to ask if they want to stay in touch and consider including an incentive with that message to entice them to reconnect. Once you’ve pared down your list, you can actually grow your business because you’ll be engaging the 20 percent of your customers that drive 80 percent of your business.
- Issue a survey. Now that you’ve culled your contact list and know which customers to focus on, ask them to participate in a short customer satisfaction survey. This allows you to get ahead of potential issues and continue to improve the customer experience.
- Segment your audience. Take the customer experience up a notch and segment your contact list by location, past purchases, and the types of content and offers they’ve responded to in the past. Once you’ve created subcategories of customers, personalize your messages and offers and watch as the response rates climb.
- Be creative with your content. Don’t be afraid to mix up the traditional email format of words and pictures using the latest tools that also lend themselves to social sharing. These can include a short (30-second) video showing your customers a short cut to a common problem, a humorous meme that lightheartedly pokes at your industry or pop culture, or a quiz such as a restaurant asking, “Which world famous chef are you?”
While email is still the most cost effective marketing tool for small businesses, it can do so much more than drive awareness and repeat business. It also gives you insight into your customers that shapes how you run your company.