30 second summary:
- Due to the global pandemic, helpful marketing is increasing
- Email marketing strategies have shifted from a brand-centric tactic to a customer-centric approach
- This philosophy is rooted in empathy and seeks to humanize customers rather than see them as mere buyers
- With helpful marketing, every email you send is considered a customer-facing message that conveys the original transaction when the customer signs up
As a result of the global pandemic, email marketing has undergone massive changes. Successful marketers have shifted their marketing strategies and tactics away from a constant stream of transaction- and brand-centric “buy this” messages. You have implemented what I call “helpful marketing” – a customer-centric philosophy that says, “If you help your customers achieve their goals, they will help you achieve your goals.” This is a new vision from the E – Mail marketing that combines helpful and educational content with promotions to drive sales growth, customer loyalty and retention. This philosophy is rooted in empathy. That is, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. What I have learned from experience and from other marketers is that when we share our humanity with customers, they are more likely to engage with our content.
Helpful marketing is good marketing
While such a shift from a brand-centric tactic to a customer-centric approach emerged from the disasters of 2020, it is a strategy we need to continue. Trying to see and understand our customers as people first and then as buyers can help us make better decisions about how to address them.
Does that sound revolutionary? It shouldn’t. I’ve been advocating this for years as marketing should have been this way all along. We are people who talk to other people. Email marketing lost that connection in the beginning when we saw how easy it was to sell our messages. That’s why we used email to drive sales through long-term engagement.
With helpful marketing, every email you send is considered a customer-facing message that conveys the original transaction when the customer signs up. Every message recognizes and supports the exchange of values. What you promised you would provide in exchange for the customer’s email address and other relevant information.
We are seeing a marketing revolution
I’m certainly not the only marketer who has noticed this change in successful brands over the past year.
Guy Hanson’s ClickZ column states that “more intentional marketing” became an email marketing trend in 2021 when brands learned in 2020 that they “need to communicate with their customers with greater empathy: less sales, more focus on – “We’re in it together, how can we help you?”
We also saw our customers respond in 2020. Email open rates rose sharply at the beginning of the pandemic. Although they flattened out over the course of the year, the openings, clicks, and conversions remained higher than they were in 2019.
Helpful marketing means that your goal is to help your customers achieve their own goals. However, these customer goals don’t always translate into revenue. It is for this reason that emails that click “Buy Now” are so often ignored. With helpful marketing, customers who find your brand more helpful will reach out to you when it’s time to buy. It’s both a short term and a long term strategy.
And it works! A study my company conducted in collaboration with Liveclicker found that emails containing helpful marketing aspects outperformed usual emails.
Helpful marketing in action
Many brands switched their messaging strategy from direct selling to a more measured approach during the pandemic and the social and economic upheaval that followed. So I hope this customer-centric focus will continue. It’s not just for tough times.
Trying to see and understand our customers as people first and then as buyers can help us make better decisions about how to address them, even as the time thereafter improves.
This email from Soak & Sleep is a classic example. The company continues to sell its email messages but added an “isolation mixtape” to its promotional messages – a comment referring to social conditions in the UK at the time.
I love this email because it is completely authentic to the brand and uses editorial content to engage with readers. Soak & Sleep has since ditched the nickname “Isolation” but continues to send out “mixtape” content, and the offerings in each email are a relevant extension of the message.
Here is another shot from Lush Cosmetics that aired when many countries were completely banned. Yes, it sells – after all, you still have to put in your numbers – but the message encourages connection to a time when people were still learning how to deal with social distancing.
Technology is important! Really helpful marketing encompasses all of the technology that allows you to segment, personalize, and automate your messages. One of the best ways you can help your customers show them relevant messages that contain your customer data.
You tell your customers: “I see you. I know you. I understand you. ”A one-size-fits-all email simply cannot convey that level of personal awareness.
Belief has a different meaning now
To be successful in email marketing, knowing how to get your customers to take the action they want is also important. But persuasion can take different forms today.
It’s not about manipulating customers into buying something they don’t want. Consumers these days are more willing to switch brands they don’t serve, and a deluge of irrelevant email can turn them off even faster now.
In today’s environment, you have to work harder to convince your customers to consider your messages. Many customers find themselves in economic distress, health crises, stress from work or personal life, or too many other concerns to preoccupy them.
This means that you need to come up with new arguments and frameworks to convince customers to examine your offer, whether it is a sale of a daily product or an email in a drip series to sell a highly regarded product.
More support in making the switch to helpful marketing
Research firms like McKinsey say we may not see a recovery until the first quarter of 2022 in some markets, such as the beauty industry. Marketers who are getting back into advertising heavily may find that their offerings stall when people are unable to take advantage of them.
But there is also an opportunity for marketers who have managed to turn to a helpful approach to marketing. According to a McKinsey survey, “consumers who have switched to new brands or retailers intend to stay with them largely, with approximately two-thirds of consumers who have switched to a private label expressing an intention to continue.”
Have you noticed an influx of new customers? Helpful marketing can get them interested and committed to your brand, especially as they navigate their “next normal” state after the pandemic ends.
Let’s stand together and show our humanity
Ask yourself, “How do my emails help my customers achieve their own goals and be successful in the parts of their lives that affect my product / service?”
Count the number of times “we”, “our” and “us” were shown in your copy during your recent campaigns and automated emails compared to “you”. This simple test can show you where to tweak content for usefulness.
The world is starting to open up again, but we still have a long way to go before we can say we are truly in recovery. Now is the time for companies to show their humanity.
Let’s rediscover good marketing practices – what works, what doesn’t, and how to find out which are which – and bring that knowledge to our email practices.
Kath Pay is an international bestselling author, award winner, keynote speaker, and CEO of Holistic Email Marketing.