College tutor Miriam Shaviv enlightens us all on Email Marketing. She'll tell us how often you should be doing it (it's more often than you may think) and why it's absolutely worthwhile!
My guest today is Miriam Shaviv, who is the director of Brainstorm Digital. Miriam, Welcome. I know that your main work is in sales funnels and what people want to say online to capture audiences' attention. So, how do we go about doing that?
Miriam Shaviv (00:33):
First of all, let's talk for a minute about why it's so important to do that really, and to work out what you need to say to people in order to capture their attention. What we find is that very often, when companies go online and start marketing online, they really talk about their products or their services in a way that makes sense to them. But the problem is that, what makes sense to them the way that they would describe their product or service, doesn't necessarily resonate truly strongly with their target market. And, really the key online, is to make sure that everything that you're saying, really does make sense and resonate with the people that you're actually trying to reach. After all, online you don't have very long to capture people's attention, and if you want to sell to them, you really have to talk about what you do in their terms, rather than yours.
Miriam Shaviv (01:30):
And lots of companies don't really, pay enough attention to this. So, what we do is we spend a lot of time at the beginning of working with any company, really researching their target market. And you need to understand what you're doing, and the transformation that you're making in people's lives, if that's the kind of product you're offering, in their terms.
So, for big companies, that involves first of all real, proper, structured market research, and for midsize companies, we essentially just interview their clients ourselves. And not just their clients by the way, it's also very, very important to talk to non-buyers or to people who maybe were interested in what you offer, but didn't actually buy. Because you need to understand, why they didn't go through with that purchase as well. And the key here, is to really go beyond demographics, again when lots of companies do market research, they're very focused on technical details. "How old are our prospects? What's their income level?" Which is all useful information that you really need to know, but what you really want to get to is the deeper, almost psychological stuff. Why are they interested in your product at a really deep level? What are their objections? What might stop them, going ahead? What's really worrying them? What really attracts them to what you're doing? Why are they ultimately going to prefer you to the competition? And who else is involved in that buying decision?
Because they may have their own set of concerns and also hopes, what do they really want to achieve? And what difference is this going to make to their lives? So, you need to understand all these different factors. In order to really be able to market well online and really form a very, very deep picture of the person that you are selling to, and how your product or your service transforms their life. And then once you have that information, you need to be able to shape it, and almost say it back to them, in a way that then resonates with them. And that's really how you capture people's attention, and ultimately are able to persuade them that what you're doing is for them.
Kiran Kapur (03:59):
Okay. So, in a way, what you're saying is it's not different in the digital world to the physical world. In that, you still need to understand what your customer's problems are?
Miriam Shaviv (04:14):
But I would say even more so, because online if you don't resonate with people, and you don't capture their attention within seconds, they're going to move on to something else. There's so much choice online, that if you're not speaking to people in a way that makes sense to them, they're just going to switch off and go to your competitor.
Kiran Kapur (04:31):
Now presumably that's not an argument for not having a distinctive voice, and not worrying about the fact that you're not going to appeal to everybody.
Miriam Shaviv (04:37):
No, of course not. That's part of the picture. You have to be able to differentiate yourself, to develop your own voice. Because, another part of selling well online, is developing that relationship with people. Developing a relationship is two ways, on the one hand it's understanding the people that you want to sell to, and being able to talk in their language. But on the other hand, you need to be distinctive from your end as well. They need to feel that not only that you know them, but that they know you as well. So, we're very big believers in being personal in your marketing, always having a person fronting the marketing so that people feel that they know someone in your company, and to do that, you have to have some kind of personality or persona as well on your end. So, it really goes both ways.
Kiran Kapur (05:33):
Does that person have to be one person or can it be a group of people that are representing your company?
Miriam Shaviv (05:39):
I think it depends on the size of the company. The truth is we prefer one... I prefer doing it for one person because that's really easy for people to identify, and you can think of some enormous companies. For example; Virgin, is very much identified with Richard Branson. They've built an entire company around his personality. There are companies where there's different people involved, where you might want to have more than one person fronting a campaign, and more than one person really representing the company. But you really want to keep it to a minimum. So, that people can really feel that they get to know a small number of people, online and identify with them.
Kiran Kapur (06:27):
Okay. So, one of the things you also talk about is creating a sales funnel. So, can we talk about what a sales funnel is?
Miriam Shaviv (06:34):
A sales funnel is basically a system to attract, nurture and convert your leads. So, when you think of the way that lots of companies do digital marketing, it's a little bit random. They're pumping out a lot of content, but there's not necessarily any order or any significance to the order that they're pumping out that content. So, when you think about that again from the point of view of the person, seeing all that content, they are seeing a lot of content from you, but it's not in a series that really makes sense or in an order that really that makes sense. So, there's no process there, but actually when you think about buying, people go through a mental process in order to buy. Especially if you're buying... It's different if you're buying a pencil, right you may wake up in the morning, say. "Hey, I need a pencil." Just go buy it quickly.
But if you're buying anything of any real value, no one wakes up in the morning and says. "Hey, I need a new car." And then by the end of that day, they have a car. They go through a mental process. Where, over time, they realize that they need something. Maybe there's a problem with the car that they already have, just to stick to that analogy. They start thinking about getting a new one, they do a little bit of research, "What's out there?" Then they decide. "Okay. I'm serious about this, I'm actually going to buy something." They go test... They narrow it down to a couple of choices, they test drive a car, they figure out where they're going to buy it from. Finally, they make the purchase, and then they may buy. A few months later, they may decide, "Hey, there's a few extra bits and pieces, I wish I had, or maybe I need an MOT." There's bits and pieces they may buy after they've bought the actual thing.
So, it's actually going through a process. A lot of it is psychological, right? So, coming to the realization that you have a problem, that you need to do something about it, making certain decisions. And when you build a sales funnel, you're basically taking all your content and you're structuring it in a way, that leads people through that process. So, you're actually helping them make that decision, and you're bringing them towards the buying decision faster, and you're helping them through it. And another analogy that I always use for this is dating. Admittedly, I'm in my forties now and I haven't dated for a long while so, I don't really know how people do it nowadays.
But, when I was in my twenties, and I was dating, again you didn't just get up in the morning, and marry someone. At least most people didn't, but you went through a process, right? You hung out in places where you might meet someone likely, you saw someone that you liked, they asked you out, maybe you asked them out, you went on a date, saw if it worked, got into a relationship, got engaged, got married. You had to do things in a certain order to make the relationship deeper, and with the sales funnel, that's literally what you're doing. You are building a system, to meet the right people, attract their attention, get their details. So, the same way in the dating, once upon a time you would've gotten people's number, you literally get people's email address, and then you have to figure out how to follow up, and say the right things to them in order to get them to buy. And then once they're buyers, you usually want them to buy more or to buy again, and that's basically what the sales funnel is.
Kiran Kapur (10:02):
So, my next question is going to random email marketing campaigns but I suspect you're going to tell me that they should fit alongside the sales funnel. So, I think we all sit in the office, and we go, "Right, we need to do an email campaign." And what's the best way to go about doing that?
Miriam Shaviv (10:18):
See, I don't really think of emails in terms of campaigns. Because, emails for me are something that is an always-on activity. Really, once you reach a certain size, you should really be emailing. No matter what you're selling, you should really be emailing people several times a week, if not every day. So, yes again, your emails need a certain structure, but I don't think of them really as a campaign. We plan emails on a quarterly basis. So, we take a longer view, and with the emails we want a mixture of content. So, you need to mix up what we call, "Nurture content." Where you're essentially building up that relationship, helping your clients or your prospects feel exactly what we talked about before, that you know them, and they know you and that you can be really useful to them. Starting conversations with them, because that's the easiest way to get to sale, and then sales material as well.
It's almost like a yin and yang process where you alternate, lighter nurture material, marketing, where you're busy... It's almost pre-sales, you're helping them understand, what their problem is, what the different solutions are, but you're not necessarily really pushing hard for them to buy. And then, you'll have a period where you're selling much harder, and you can structure this in a way so that your marketing, your presales, does all the work to persuade people that they need, whatever it is you're about to sell. And then, you go into a sales campaign, where you actually sell that thing, but then you have to veer back into something lighter, almost to give people a mental break. So, with email you really want to mix it up, keep people surprised, keep people engaged. So, build up the bars, make the case, create a strong sale sequence, and then do the whole thing all over again. And that's essentially how we structure it, again and again and again, over many months.
Kiran Kapur (12:29):
And this is to the same prospects? And does it... Presumably it changes as, and when they become a customer?
Miriam Shaviv (12:36):
Of course, you'll have... It depends really how big your email list is. But once you reach a certain level, you're then going to start to segment people and send them different material, depending on the actions they've taken. For example; are they a customer? Are they not a customer? But I think the point with the email is that, you should be emailing really everyone the entire time. The mistake that we see lots of companies make is that, when they get a new lead they email them for the first few days, and then they write them off if they haven't bought immediately, they just say that, "Nah, they're never going to buy." And then they go into this hamster wheel chase, really of finding new leads. But it's really a wasted opportunity, because every email address that you have, is someone who's at some point has shown interest in what you do.
And if you can continue talking to them, over the long-term, building up that relationship, and giving them frequent opportunities to buy. Over time, that email list will become... It's a gold mine. The people on that list will become absolutely your best prospects, because you have built up that relationship with them so strongly, and spent so long convincing them, persuading them, that you have a solution for them. So, really email is a forever thing until someone unsubscribes, you should be continuing to email your prospects forever. And the research has shown again and again and again, that the return on investment for email is far higher than the return of investment for social media. And so, companies routinely underestimate the power of the email, and really email is one of the most powerful tools in your digital marketing arsenal.
Kiran Kapur (14:24):
Do you not find that customers and prospects just get email fatigue over, "Oh yeah, no, not another email." or would you say if the content was good enough as a prospect, I wouldn't think that?
Miriam Shaviv (14:33):
It's a great question. And I think that, lots of companies get very nervous about emailing people too often. But, the answer is exactly what you said, that when you're emailing people things that are truly relevant to them, and interesting, and entertaining as well. They will absolutely read it. They get email fatigue, when you're irrelevant. So, when you haven't done that research that we talked about at the beginning, and you're talking to them in a jargony way, in a way that doesn't resonate with them, they're not going to want to read essentially your constant propaganda.
But they will, for lack of another term, but they will want to read things that are really relevant to them, that resonate with them, that offer them hope that their life can change with whatever problem it is that you help them deal with, and also that if when you entertain them. A lot of what we do over email, is make the point by telling really interesting stories, personal anecdotes. When the emails come from a person rather than a company, it can just be really fun, entertaining emails, where they talk about things that have happened in their life.
And people really want to read that, and you can really build up a very close relationship with your readers that way, and ultimately sell to them as well. So, as long as your emails are doing that job, and they're emails that people want to read, I really actually think there's no limit to the number of times that you can email them. I'm on plenty of email list. So, I get emailed every day, a couple even email more than once a day. I'm not necessarily suggesting that companies do that, but I'm saying that if your emails are good, you can. What we always suggest, when clients say exactly what you said. "Hey, but people are going to think that it's too many emails." My advice is always, email just once more a week than you're comfortable with, right? So, if you really think they should only be emailing once a week, just try emailing twice a week and see what happens, right?
And if you really think you should only be emailing once every two weeks, email them every week and see what happens. And inevitably, the fear is always from the company, and it's very rarely actually truth, right? The customers rarely feel that way, and what happens is when you start emailing just a little bit more, is you see that actually it has a massive impact on your relationships, and your sales, and it builds up your confidence, and carry on emailing, just once more every week until you do reach a level. At some point, you may reach a level where you do begin to see more negative customer feedback, and that's the point at which you may want to scale back. But I can absolutely guarantee, that that level is much higher than your initial comfort levels would suggest.
Kiran Kapur (17:29):
That's a very interesting thought. So, I was going to ask if I was doing an email campaign, what other content should I have along side? You've suggested that maybe I should be concentrating much more on email than my social media content.
Miriam Shaviv (17:43):
Well, not necessarily. To me, the email is always the heart of any digital marketing program because, email like I said, has certain a much higher return on investment. There's lots of other arguments for email as well, it's your own list. Social Media, Facebook suddenly changed the rules, and suddenly you can't reach people. Email also feels much more personal to me, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing the other stuff. Absolutely, I would never argue that you should be doing email to the exclusion of anything else, quite the opposite. What you should be doing is trying to build an immersive program, where your content on email is really echoed, and reinforced on the other platform so that everything works together really nicely. Ultimately, I think the statistic is that, on average, customers see 5,000 marketing messages or ads per day, which sounds like an enormous number but when you think about how much time you spend online, it may even be an underestimate.
So, really for your messages to get through, you really need a lot of touch points with your customer. And so, it's really, really important that all your different platforms, not only are coordinated, but that you are reaching people in different places. So, that they really feel that you are omnipresent, So they feel that you're everywhere. Because, even a small company, when they see you on email, and then they see something similar on Facebook, and something similar on LinkedIn or whatever platform you're on, you can almost build a sense that you're much bigger than you are, just by doing that, with a little bit of remarketing as well. And it also really helps your messages sink in. Because the other thing is that, even a good email, people are only going to spend a few minutes reading it.
Your social media posts in most cases, most of your followers are going to see it as they scroll down, they're not going to spend that much time, maybe five seconds interacting with it. If you have serious messages, that's not really enough for them to sink in. So, one way to help your messages actually sink in, is to have them reinforcing each other on different platforms. So, the answer to your question is absolutely you should be doing... You should be in more than one place, but you should make sure that everything is coordinated and reinforcing each other. So you're creating a more immersive experience for your audience.
Kiran Kapur (20:12):
And I put out to a number of students that I was going to be interviewing you. One of the questions that came up quite often was, are long or short emails better? It seems to be quite a big issue, do I go long? Do I go short? What's your view ?
Miriam Shaviv (20:28):
So, it's a how long is a piece of string question? I think it very much depends on what you're selling, and who your audience is. We see there's a big division, first of all if you're a retailer. So, retailers tend to send very graphic, heavy, short emails. Whereas companies offering products, which are more transformative, I think they can do something very, very different. The bulk of... We work really with two types of companies, we work with aesthetic clinics, which offer things like injectable treatments, and liposuction, and CoolSculpting and things like that. And funnily enough, the other type of company we work with, completely different, is in the financial sector. But in both those cases, they offer services, which actually do change people's lives in some way. So, when you offer a service like that, you want to get a lot more wordy.
It takes a lot more to persuade people. You can't send a picture of a... A picture with say 20% off is just not going to really sell what you're doing, and then, you need to really make a case, I'm thinking... Think about how are you making the case for your service long-term, how are you showing people that what you do is really going to change their life in a way that they really want, and then your emails do need to get longer. And I think that one of the factors here, again, this whole debate of long and short emails. A lot of it is about the fear of the companies, rather than the reality of the reader. The emails that we write, they are usually a minimum of 400 words, and sometimes they even get up to eight, even 900 words.
And I know that some people might be hearing that and recoiling in horror, "Oh my God, who's ever going to read 900 words." But the answer is, it's just the same issue again and again, right? If the email is really good, really relevant, really entertaining, and really resonates with people, they absolutely will read it, and, it allows you, to make the case. It allows you to build up the case, for whatever it is you're selling, and that's really important, and I think that many companies sell themselves short, literally, with emails that are too short, because they're too scared of scaring people off with longer emails a bit, but it doesn't necessarily bear out in reality.
And the truth is that, as with everything digital, what it really comes down to is testing, right? You need to try, you can try different types of emails, see what really resonates, and as long as you're doing those emails well, again, I think that most companies will be surprised, that they can write a lot more, the emails can be a lot longer, than really their initial comfort levels would suggest. And it may actually do a lot of good, but they need to try it, and they need to make sure that they're not just writing long emails for the sake of it, but that emails are generally good and have something real to say.
Kiran Kapur (23:41):
Miriam Shaviv, that was absolutely fascinating, and I've taken two takeaways, one is the, "Email one more time than you are actually comfortable with." And the other one was that, "Sometimes it's the fear of the company, not the reader." So, what you're really saying is put yourself in the customer and the reader's shoes. Which I think, is a great message.
Miriam Shaviv (23:59):
Kiran Kapur (23:59):
Thank you very much indeed for your time.
Miriam Shaviv (24:01):
And thank you very much for having me.