Recently, my insurance agent sent me a Valentine’s Day card along with a (much-needed) gift card for coffee. After a brief moment of excitement that it wasn’t a rate change, I was even more shocked to find that it was handwritten and mentioned some recent events in my life. It immediately brightened my day, but also made me wonder: how can we reach our customers with that level of sincerity in an increasingly-digital age?
Certainly, mass marketing is still important, and is incredibly easy and affordable through e-mail. However, those e-mails are more like flyers than a letter. They do little to build a relationship, which is exactly what many small businesses—particularly professional services—need. Even when styled as a letter, customers can easily tell the difference between a form e-mail and a personal one. Even if we take the time to write a personal note, it may get lost in the volume of e-mails they receive. Is it possible to use e-mail to reach customers with sincerity?
Here are some of our tips for building relationships with your customers through e-mail:
Make sure every e-mail has a purpose
First and foremost, these messages need to be targeted. They can’t be sent too often, or to too many people—both for sincerity, and because it would overwhelm your staff. You need to choose which customers you want to target, and send messages at impactful times.
If your goal is to build a long-term relationship, each communication should have a purpose in addition to product information. Beyond targeting a particular industry, you should exemplify how a product would improve their specific use case—using their names, company names, and other contacts. In addition, consider using special occasions to boost your personalization. A holiday card feels much more impactful than a letter announcing a new product line—and gives you a chance to casually mention a new product.
Don’t overdo it
Customers don’t exist in isolation. If you send every contact a “thinking of you” e-mail at the same time, it will be noticed. It’s best to spread out your personalized e-mails all around. If you want your communications to feel intimate, send them sparingly. Better yet, send personal communications as a complement to regular communications like newsletters, advertisements, and more. However, as we’ll cover next, make them stand out.
Make personal e-mails stand out from mass communications.
If you regularly use e-mail to communicate with customers en masse, you want to ensure that they notice the difference. Here are strategies you should consider:
Use real, direct emails to send personal e-mailsUse your own e-mail, like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, if you're writing someone personally. Send newsletters or other impersonal e-mails from groups like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. While others may recommend otherwise—because customers are more likely to read mass e-mails that seem personalized—this tactic is difficult to execute and often makes customers feel misled.
Avoid flashy, branded content.Nothing says “marketing material” like a carefully-constructed digital version of the company letterhead with links to your website and perfect inline images. If you want your e-mail to feel personal, you should minimize that amount of visualization. If it’s more elaborate than something you’d send to your boss, it’s probably too much. The goal here is to build a relationship. If you want to share a particular product, share a link to the product information. Imagine that you thought of a helpful product mid-conversation, then rifled through your briefcase to find the flash sheet—not that you marched in with the presentation folder already prepared.
Make sure your client appears alone on the To: line of the e-mail.BCCing recipients is appropriate for e-mails that are sent to many people at once, but is similar to addressing a letter to “Current Resident” in terms of personability.
Include real contact information in the signature of your e-mail.While you may have to steer communications back to the right person, that’s part of managing a major account. Sometimes, it’s best to “take one for the team” and forward it to the correct team. If it becomes a problem, you can always help connect them with a better POC down the road.
Keep your signature lines simple.While this is a good tip in general, having too much in your e-mail signature can make it look like you’re pushing your brand, even when you’re not.
Make sure you personalize each time
Every contact should look different. You can make a template, but it should be highly customizable with at least one free-form paragraph. Even then, modify the template often. You never want customers to see the same message twice, whether in their inbox or their neighbors’. If you use a CRM system, make sure you’re using it properly to ensure that everyone receives each message only once.
Include an appropriate level of personal information based on your relationship. If you know about any major milestones in their life, mention them; include a bit of your own life as well, as a showing of trust. There is no gold standard for how much information is too much, and your account managers will need to use good judgement and let the customer set the standard. You always want to balance personalization with professionalism.
If you have the budget and it’s appropriate for your line of work, consider including some kind of incentive in your message—whether it’s a gift card from another business, a free promotional item, or a discount code. Doing so will increase the likelihood that they’ll open future messages as well.
Use CRM principles to track your contacts, with or without software
If you use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, many of these points are already incorporated. You can track contacts across teams and between all employees, and take notes about an individual’s interests, communication preferences, and more.
However, if you’re still starting out, full-scale CRM software may not be the best use of startup funds. Still, you can use something as simple as a spreadsheet to keep track of contacts. Keep an eye on how often you’re reaching out to customers, if they appreciate your contacts, and any issues that you should follow up on. Use that to tailor your strategy to each individual, and you’ll build a strong foundation for a working relationship.
Last modified by Michael on 16 February 2021.