No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts
We’ve talked about the importance of email segmentation to help send more relevant, personalized content. But we haven’t talked too much about the importance of authenticity in your email content.
Relevant, personalized and authentic content is not just what subscribers want. It’s what they expect. After all, each email address has a real person behind it who trusts you enough to be subscribed to your list.
This post is jam-packed with expert tips to help you showcase your brand’s authenticity which—if done authentically—will results in more conversions, more loyal customers and more word-of-mouth referrals.
We asked email experts from Benchmark Email, dotdigital, Holistic Email Marketing, Email on Acid, Email Uplers, iContact, Customers Who Click and BEE to share their thoughts about authenticity in email. And to help you develop a more authentic email content strategy in the future.
Here’s what they had to say…
Put Your Authenticity at the Forefront
Authenticity matters to consumers. In fact, 90% say that authenticity plays a role when deciding whether or not to like and support a brand.
It’s not just enough for you to get your brand out there with high-quality content and advertising. It’s just as important (maybe more so) to make authenticity the center of your brand message.
This is more than just having a quirky voice on social media or sharing fun graphics in the content you create. It’s about looking to the core of your brand and the people behind it and bringing those components front and center. It’s about showing what goes on behind the scenes and bringing your guard down a bit.
People want to know that the brands they put their money into are treating their employees well, value their customers, and have a solid mission that sets them apart from others in the space. So it’s important to showcase these elements in your content – be it your social media, email marketing, or blog posts. Here are some examples of ways email marketers can create authentic content that speaks to their subscribers:
- Share your company’s mission statement in your customer newsletters.
- Highlight your employee of the month by posting about him or her on social media and in your email newsletters, describing why he or she is an asset to the company.
- Create videos of your customer support team members providing a walkthrough of your software.
- Show a behind-the-scenes brainstorm session so people can see your team’s thought process when creating or refining the product or service you offer or the content you create.
- Create a video on “A Day in the Life” of your CEO.
- Highlight “Staff Picks” that showcase their favorite content or articles they found helpful and include them in your newsletters.
- Record interviews of your staff discussing why they love working for your company. Put them on your website, in your newsletters, and share them on social media.
Pair this kind of approach with content centered on addressing the needs and issues your audience experiences, and you’ll have a great content and email marketing strategy that offers value and puts your authentic brand at the forefront.
Segmentation is Key to Providing Authentic, Tailored Email Content
The key to authentic email content is segmentation while staying true to your brand’s style and tone of voice. This allows you to tailor your email content to the right audience. Data capture makes all this possible, asking subscribers important data that helps you drive personalization and authenticity in email campaigns.
Here are some must-asks:
- Date of birth
- Location (city, country)
- Product interests (categories, styles, etc.)
- Preferred content (promotions, newsletters, editorial, etc.)
Once all your data is in place, you can start delivering the right content to the right people.
Subscribers will be delighted at the relevancy of emails landing in their inbox, reflecting their needs and preferences. Not only will this drive email engagement, particularly clicks and conversions, but sales and referrals too.
Remember to focus on editorial content and not just promotions. Your brand reputation will be taken to the next level, as subscribers engage with your genuine and authentic messages, trusting you as a business.
You’ll seem real, not just another brand emailing out irrelevant promotional content.
In addition to preferences, you can start appending behavioral data like website activity and purchase history, making your emails that bit more relevant. Layering data-driven content into emails has the best chance of generating engagement: not just in your content, but your product(s) and brand(s).
As you start building your email content program, with a plethora of options for each audience, you can start to create smarter triggers. Using an email automation tool, it’s easy to curate personalized journeys for your subscribers.
People will enroll in particular programs and receive tailored messages and content depending on their data profile. What’s more, as data changes or updates, subscribers will filter through uniquely – enrolling in and out of programs, ensuring every message you send them remains relevant.
Communicating your brand in an authentic way comes down to just that: tailored email content that reflects marries your true brand identity with the needs of the customer.
Authenticity Means Valuing Customer-Centricity Over Brand-Centricity
To create authentic content for your subscribers, you need to understand their needs and know why they’re on your list. That is, you need to be customer-centric rather than brand-centric.
A brand-centric marketer will just push out messages and offers that meet their needs without consideration of the subscriber. This is the hard way of going about things and will, over time, most likely turn off your subscribers.
However, an authentic, customer-centric marketer understands that their objectives and their subscriber’s/customer’s objectives are two sides of the same coin. If you can help them to achieve their objectives, you, by default, will achieve yours.
So, to achieve this take onboard the Helpful Marketing approach.
Helpful marketing means that you consider your subscriber/customer. This can be imparted through copy, frequency, product offerings, timing, personalization and tone of voice.
It’s important to realize that even though email is a push channel, we shouldn’t always be overtly selling. People don’t want to be perpetually sold to – they tune out. You can mix up ‘sales’ content with other ‘nudge’ or helpful content. Try and make your content as palatable as possible and think from the customer’s perspective. Here’s a good example of an authentic email by Eurostar:
As marketers, I believe we should be the director of our customer’s experience; therefore, we need to not expect the customer to work hard to achieve their objective.
A really simple tip is to count how many times you use ‘we’ in your copy and then reword the copy so that it says ‘you’. You’re now involving and including the subscriber and they’ll take more notice of it.
Make it easy for your subscribers to convert – after all, that’s why they’re on your list. State your offer and then ask yourself, “So what?” This way, you are converting it into being customer-centric benefit-driven copy rather than brand-centric copy.
Authentic Content Is Key To Engaging Your Subscribers
Because the inbox is such a personal place, authentic content is key to engaging your email subscribers and building brand loyalty. Here are four quick tips to ensure authenticity in email marketing.
- Be generous: Send subscribers valuable content without requiring anything in return. This shows you’re serious about helping them out and not simply selling something. Don’t make subscribers fill out another form if you can avoid it. You don’t always have to push a sale, custom demo, or coupon code either. Build loyalty by giving away some of your best content first. Then, work your way up to the ask later on along the email customer journey.
- Share your imperfections: Authenticity means owning your mistakes – not hiding from them. In email marketing, that could include an error in one of your campaigns or a company-wide issue that’s addressed using email as the communication channel. Accept responsibility, tell subscribers what happened, and explain how you plan to prevent future missteps. But, be careful about using these situations to “toot your own horn.” Turning a mistake into a publicity stunt could be viewed as very inauthentic.
- Visualize authenticity: We’re all inundated with imagery. People tend to filter out the inauthentic and gravitate toward what appears real and relatable. For example, a Nielsen eye-tracking study found consumers often completely ignore cheesy stock photos. Our brains also process images far faster than words. So, visuals in email content that reflect authenticity at a glance are important. Think carefully about the stock images you choose to use and consider using photos from real life when possible.
- Be consistent: Finally, make sure you carry things through across multiple email communications. This applies to design, acquisition strategy, messaging, and more. Anyone can put together a campaign or two and be like, “Oh, we’re so real and we care so much. Look at us!” That might grab the attention of a few people on your list. But brand loyalty comes from being consistent over time while being willing to take the occasional risk when it’s in your subscribers’ best interests.
Think Like the Fish, Not the Fisherman (as quoted by Ian Brodie)
To create authentic content, you must follow two rules without fail:
- Use first and second-person narratives to make the email conversational and leave a more profound impact on the reader.
- Write in an empathetic tone, considering the customer’s preferences.
Sending out personalized and value-packed emails has become imperative as your subscribers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails in their inbox each day. They are looking for something beyond those promotional emails.
Let me share an example with you.
Recently, I signed up for Outgrow trial and received a series of humanized emails throughout the seven days.
Here are two examples to demonstrate how they have sent out helpful and persuasive content to encourage me to take action.
In this email, they have tried to address any objections or questions that I might be having.
On the last day of the trial, they sent me an email asking me if I want to extend the trial or need a demo.
Sending such emails is a brilliant idea to get people to respond and avail of their services.
The pandemic has changed the customer’s buying behavior and preferences. Many of your subscribers might still be going through a tough time. Therefore, your emails must reflect consideration and be in line with the current situation.
Take a look at this email by Headspace in which they have used an empathetic tone to promote their live meditation session.
Here, I would especially like to mention Dean Jackson’s nine-word template for re-engagement emails. In this template, you ask the subscriber if they are still interested in your offerings.
Animoto has nailed this tactic in their reactivation campaign:
To sum it up, the key to creating authentic email content is thinking like the fish rather than the fisherman and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.
Consumers Are Looking For Value & Trust. Authenticity Builds Value & Trust.
To marketers and salespeople, the most important thing is a conversion. There are lazy ways to obtain conversions and the right way. Deceptive sales and marketing tactics can work, but not always, and not for everyone. Consumers are looking for value and trust.
Value is one of the most important elements in business. Customers want and expect it. Value can take many forms. It can be an interaction. It can be content.
People buy from and do business with brands they like and trust. Without trust, there is friction that delays or stops a conversion.
By being authentic with your email marketing campaigns, you can offer value and build trust. Your brand has a personality, and it comes through in the content you create. People will see through you if you create “fake” content.
Urban Outfitters has always been known for its relaxed and fun demeanor. You can see here that they have a unique personality, and JetBlue is committed to serving their customers. They built trust and align with their brand persona.
Nike has always been known to support athletes and stand up for equality. They have built trust and respect with their subscribers and customers. They have been the go-to sneaker and apparel company because of their authentic branding and marketing.
Embrace your brand personality and remain consistent with your messaging to create a community of trusting subscribers that turn into customers. There is no reason to create friction and anxiety for the sole purpose of a one-time conversion. Set yourself up for success by being authentic.
Stop Trying To Sell Every Time You Send an Email
Want to create more engaging and authentic content? Stop trying to sell in every email.
Customers will buy the product when they’re ready. It’s your job to help them reach that point of readiness.
And you do it by giving value to the customer.
Your emails will come across so much more authentic if you’re not trying to sell every single time you send one.
And that includes a little ‘View Featured Products’ at the bottom of the email because it immediately tells the customers that’s what you want them to do in this email.
If you’ve created good enough content, your customers will want to know what those featured products were and how to buy them.
Selling kitchen appliances? Give your customers recipes to try out with each appliance showing off not only an awesome-looking recipe but also an explanation of why your appliance is so necessary.
Selling furniture? Provide some articles on how to clean and maintain the furniture to make it last longer (a company that only wants to sell isn’t going to tell customers to buy less frequently).
Do the research. Find out what your customers are interested in and why they might want to buy your products (tie in some segmentation so you can provide content relevant to the product AND their personal preferences).
Then produce content that answers their questions, and adds value to their lives, even if it means they can go and use that content without having to buy from you.
Keep giving to your customers, and they’ll keep giving back.
Don’t Overthink Being Authentic
Creating authentic email content starts with asking – and answering – real questions. It has very little to do with you, the creator of the email, and a lot more to do with your ability to read your audience.
Literally, read what your audience is saying. User research is easier than ever. Even the most antisocial alien can keep a pulse on humanity using a little thing called “social listening”.
Social listening traditionally refers to monitoring mentions of your company or brand online. But you can take it one step further by eavesdropping on conversations. There are three great tools to do this:
- Facebook groups. I always laugh when people say Facebook is dead. Yes, it’s public feed has become a wasteland of opinions and memes, but if you flip over the dead weight, you’ll find a thriving ecosystem underneath. Groups like Women of Email serve as a space where professionals can share advice, ask questions and discuss hot topics in the industry.
- Subreddit stats. Reddit has the best and the worst of the internet, and it can be overwhelming to navigate as a marketer. Luckily, some blesséd soul compiled all of the data you could ever ask for in one place. Search for subreddits related to your industry, and you’ll see top posts, comments, keywords and users. The page will even suggest related subreddits to dig through.
- Answer the Public. If you’re all out of ideas, this is the easiest place to go. Answer the Public will give you questions related to nearly any topic. The only downside of this tool is that you can’t tell how frequently these questions are being asked. It’s best to cross-reference it with an SEO tool or Google Trends.
This advice might seem counterintuitive… how is spying on your audience going to help produce more authentic content?
Perception is a funny thing. If you think too much about “being yourself” or staying true to your brand, you’ll come off as inauthentic because you’re trying to project what you want people to think. On the other hand, if you can nail down what your audience is already thinking about, you’ll come off as relatable.
Think about it: do you want to talk to the person at the party who is yapping about themselves or the person asking thoughtful questions? My guess is the latter. The more that you research what your audience is asking and thinking about, the better you can tailor your content to fit their needs. There’s nothing more authentic than just listening.
P.S. the BEE team covered which questions are worth asking in our 4th of July reflection.
More No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts Coming Soon
Stay tuned. We’ll be posting more No Bullshit Advice soon. Read our last expert round-up about Creative Ways To Upsell Customers Using Email. or catch up on the entire series here: No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts.
And as always, feel free to share your thoughts with us on Twitter.
Keep your list healthy and boost campaign performance by regularly cleaning your email list. We’ll let you know which email addresses are good, bad and risky, before you hit send.
Your first 100 verifications are on us. Verify for Free