If you’ve worked in the email marketing space for any length of time at all, then you already know quite well what a tremendously effective marketing tool email can be. Indeed, as noted in a recent article for the Financial Post, email marketing has the potential to generate $42 dollars for every one dollar spent.
That means that email marketing has the potential to generate some of the highest returns on investment (ROI) of any marketing channel. But not all email marketing campaigns are created equal. To maximize your returns and ensure that your email campaigns live up to their fullest potential, you must be smart and strategic, both in your customer segmentation and in your outreach.
It’s not going to be enough, for example, simply to shoot out hundreds or thousands of the same boilerplate email messages and hope that something sticks. Rather, if you want your marketing emails to elicit responses and, above all, to increase conversions, then you need to use an approach that is at once targeted and human.
In other words, your audience needs to feel as if the message comes from a real human who is writing specifically for and to them. This article explores the importance of humanizing your email marketing strategy and describes best practices for doing so.
Use Culturally Aware Language
Humans are social animals. That’s not news. But what you might not have considered is the diversity and nuance of the social contexts in which your target audiences live.
This means that if you truly want your audiences to feel known, understood, and cared for, you need to reach out to them in culturally-appropriate ways. From your rhetorical and linguistic choices to your cultural references to the needs and values you espouse in your content, a community-focused approach is key.
After all, you can’t expect to effectively communicate, let alone build relationships, with your audience if you don’t first understand how they communicate and about what.
Another example of culturally aware language is avoiding stereotypes and generalizations. It’s important to recognize that different cultures have different values and beliefs, and using stereotypes or generalizations can be seen as disrespectful. Culturally aware language also involves being aware of cultural references and nuances. For example, using a reference to a popular television show may be effective in one culture but may not resonate with another.
Using humor in marketing is also a very common way to engage your audience. In this case, however, you should also carefully approach the subject of the joke and the way you word it.
There are few things more off-putting than receiving a marketing email that feels like it’s been written by and for a stranger or, worse, for an audience of thousands of strangers. That’s why personalizing your marketing emails is a must.
The good news is that you don’t have to devote every waking hour to researching every single individual on your contact list. Rather, you can leverage a whole host of automation technologies, many of them powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence systems (AI), to make personalization efficient and effective.
For example, you might use automation systems to combine your email marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.
This enables your marketing platform to incorporate customer-specific data in the creation of personalized marketing emails. These emails may include the customer’s:
- name and references;
- recent purchases or shopping preferences;
- targeted promotions reflecting their interests.
The end result is a more humanized and more satisfying customer experience and, thus, better word of mouth and increased customer loyalty.
There’s no question about it, we humans love our stories. In fact, narratives often shape how we perceive the world and shape our behaviors accordingly. So if you can use your marketing emails to create a compelling story for your readers, the odds are pretty good you’re going to win their favor and their business.
Marketing emails are ideally suited for storytelling because they give your audiences the time and space to peruse the story at their own pace. When you tap into the storytelling approach, you’re never going to run out of fresh, new — and engaging — materials.
That’s why storytelling is increasingly being celebrated as one of the most promising new directions in email marketing today. You might, for example, use a narrative-focused marketing email to tell the backstory of your brand.
Or you might liven up your content with recent photos of your team working on a big project or having a little fun at a company retreat. Providing team members’ names and cute captions will add that vital human touch.
And don’t forget that your customers have lots of fascinating stories to share as well, so why not build a few email campaigns around user-generated content? Soliciting posts and videos from happy customers going about their daily lives can be a great way to humanize your marketing emails.
As important as it is to try a range of approaches to inject a bit of the human into your marketing emails, not every approach will be effective. That’s why testing is also key. You will want to be consistent and comprehensive in your target marketing metrics and in your strategies for assessing those metrics.
For example, customer engagement is often a key indicator that an email campaign has been effective. Thus, you might define a specific engagement metric to help you determine if the campaign has been successful. You might, for instance, compare the effectiveness of multiple campaigns by measuring what percentage of recipients opened the email or clicked through to a product page in an embedded link.
Or you might determine that you will consider a campaign successful in building customer engagement if 50% of recipients open the message or respond to a call to action (CTA).
Also, be sure to A/B test the content of your marketing emails. This way, you will not only know which content variant works better for your campaign, but you’ll also get an idea of which content speaks to your specific demographic audience.
No one likes to feel anonymous, and when you take pains to humanize your email marketing campaigns, you’re proactively preventing your audience from feeling that way. Humanizing your messages helps audiences feel known, understood, and cared for by a real human being on the other side of the text.
The good news is that humanizing your content is not all that difficult. It depends, above all, on community-focused targeting, personalization, storytelling, and continuous campaign assessment.