If you’re in marketing, chances are you’ve been to a networking event of some kind at some time. A networking event can be any number of things, including a chamber of commerce breakfast, an AMA luncheon or an industry-specific dinner, but they all have the same ultimate purpose: Connecting potential sellers and buyers.
Effective networking is a skill. A friend calls the wrong approach to networking not-working. That’s what you’re doing when you go to a networking event ready to be all about you and what you’re selling. The best networkers are those who listen, not talk; ask, not tell; connect, not isolate. The best networkers work a room slowly, sincerely interested in the people they are meeting, asking to know more about them, and introducing them to others if they think a synergy is possible. They also follow up later with sincerity, meaning a “nice to meet you and talk about your skiing lessons” kind of email, not a “nice to meet you, when can we meet so I can give you a sales pitch” kind of email.
These folks also know their networking starts before they walk through the door. They show up professionally dressed and nicely groomed, with business cards in their pocket and a genuine smile on their face.
With each event they attend, they grow a true “net” of contacts, leads and referral sources because their approach works.
What if we applied this networking approach to email marketing? How might email marketing differ in appearance, function and results? Email marketing based on successful networking could quite possibly be a lot more appealing in the inbox, and therefore get better results. Emails that successfully “work” the inbox might:
- Be designed with the customers’ expectations in mind.
- Render correctly no matter the screen, to make a great first impression.
- Be slow to ramp up before asking for the sale, building trust over time.
- Come from a real email address, not a “dotnotreply” one. (They might even come from a real person!)
- Come across as personal and even real, connecting to the recipient to talk to them, not at them.
- Ask for feedback, reviews or photos to make people feel important…like their opinions matter.
- Offer useful information unrelated to the goods or services being sold, like articles, tips, third-party resources or even movie suggestions.
- Connect people to other resources by sending links to websites or resources related to what we’re selling (but not what we’re selling).
- Recognize birthdays and anniversaries, making customers feel special.
- Say “thank you” for orders or loyalty, making customers feel appreciated.
Do you see a recurring theme here? What is the common element all of these potential characteristics have in common…with each other and successful networkers? A customer-centric approach, the kind of approach every email program should have, even that of an email marketing agency.
The successful networker walks into a room genuinely interested in the people he is meeting. His focus is meeting and helping others first. If that leads to a lead later, that’s great. But he doesn’t walk into the room looking to sell.
The email that effectively “works” the inbox needs to show up in the inbox with that same customer-centric approach. If the goal is to be helpful and friendly first and to sell second (or even third), that customer focus will be obvious and lead to the beginnings of trust, then a sale, and then maybe even long-term loyalty.
What would your email marketing program look like if your emails acted more like networkers and less like salespeople?