With 61% of consumers saying that they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from a company that delivers custom content, it’s no wonder that 91% of B2B marketers & 86% of B2C marketers use content marketing, and why companies in general are now prioritizing content creation as a means of engaging customers more than ever before.
If you consider that email is merely the medium for delivering content and in most cases it contains ‘teasers’ that direct to wherever the content actually lives (like on your website or blog) then the conclusion is that any type of content can be delivered via email as long it’s presented in the ‘snackable’ way that the medium demands.
Of course, you don’t just want to send “any” type of content. You’ll want to think carefully about what type of content your subscribers will find valuable, interesting or entertaining. If you can’t send content that meets at least one of these criteria, you’re better off not sending any marketing emails at all.
Consider this: Let’s say that you represent a company that has something to promote or sell. Sounds about right? Congratulations, you’re in the company of about a gazillion other companies that do the same thing. The good news is that if someone subscribed to your newsletter, chances are that he’s interested in your specific line of products and wants to be kept updated about relevant offers. The bad news – again – is that he probably subscribed to your competitors’ newsletters too for the exact same reason.
Let’s say for the sake of this example that your company sells stationery products, and while we’re at it, that your subscriber is a woman. Think about it from her perspective: She’s just subscribed to your email program and is expecting useful content to arrive at any moment. Predictably enough the emails begin to arrive and they contain one promo after another, but sadly (for you), as much as she may have initially been interested in your products when she first subscribed, buying stationery will not remain her most pressing priority as the days and weeks go by.
Eventually not only will her interest wane, but if she’s receiving the exact same promotional messages from your competitors (remember, as far as the subscriber is concerned it’s “same product, different brand”) she’ll probably become “blind” to ALL emails from stationery companies in her inbox as they all start to appear indistinguishable from one another at a moment when she really isn’t interested in buying any stationery products at all.
That’s where the power of content comes to the fore.
Furthermore, if your content is truly engaging, she’ll look forward to opening your emails anyway – even when she’s not in stationery-shopping mode – because she knows that worthwhile content awaits within.
What will make your emails memorable is content that triggers a genuine interest in the brand itself.
If you can create content that nurtures an affinity among your subscribers for your brand, they will be a lot more amenable to your product promotions, especially if these promotions appear to be natural supplements to this interesting content and not the main course.
The other thing to remember is that whether your emails end up in your subscribers’ Promotions Tab or her main email feed, they will be in the company of messages from family and friends whose priority in her inbox (and in her life) ranks far above any marketer or brand. And since it’s not easy competing with your typical subscriber’s emails featuring her mother’s Bolognese recipe, photos of her 3-year-old niece doing a cartwheel, and the latest gossip about who her most scandalous girlfriend is dating now, your content needs to be equally as valuable (if not more so).
So your challenge can be summed up as a double-whammy:
Here are some ideas to help you do just that:
1) Share your insights on your industry’s news and trends of the day.
This shows that you know not just about your own products, but about your products in the context of the entire industry, inadvertently positioning you or your brand as a leader or authority in your field. Using the ‘stationery’ example again, you could talk about new innovations in production methods, new materials, cutting-edge designs, and a myriad of other factors that your subscribers would find interesting if they are ever in the market for stationery products.
2) Tell the story of the company behind the products you sell.
How did it start? Who are the teams or individuals that make it all happen? How are the products made? Tell a story that’s personal and share anecdotes that are truly interesting and engaging and that will endear subscribers to your brand. The idea is to make them aware not only of the products you sell but also of how these products ‘came to be’, what goes in to creating them and what makes them different from those of other brands in the same category. You could potentially do this not just as a ‘one off’ email, but also for individual or new products as they are released to market. You could even turn it into a regular ‘company highlight’ in your newsletter where you introduce something or someone of interest in your company.
If your readers start to think of you as a brand with real people and genuine passion behind it, they’ll stop thinking of you as “just another company that sells stationery” but rather as “the stationery company whose designers are award-winners in their field and whose founder is so passionate about stationery that he boasts proudly about his one-of-a-kind collection of pens from all over the world”. See the difference?
3) Leverage your pool of satisfied customers for subtle product promotions that don’t look like obvious sales pitches.
Got satisfied customers or loyal users? Encourage them to share their own experiences with your products to help showcase their benefits. Personal testimonials or case studies are not only a source of great editorial content, but they also help instill a sense of community because it turns an email about something that the subscriber is interested in into one that unveils other like-minded customers who are interested in too. People usually like to feel that they are a part of a group that’s doing something right, even if this ‘something’ is simply their preference for your brand.
4) Create original and engaging visual content.
Articles that feature accompanying images get 94% more views, but that doesn’t mean that you should fill your emails with boring product shots. Instead, try to use images that will trigger an emotional response. Place your products in context (or out of context might also be fun), display them creatively, or use images that are unrelated to the products but complement the message you’re trying to convey in the text.
5) Present content in a variety of formats and make it share-able.
In addition to writing great articles or blog posts, you might want to try delivering your content in other creative and interesting ways to ‘mix it up’ a little for your subscribers. Create Slidshare presentations, videos, infographics, or downloadable whitepapers (if relevant), or leverage content from your social networks to inspire your subscribers to engage in conversation about a topic you initiate. The better the content, the more share-able it will be, and your engaged email subscribers are great conduits for all of this great, share-able content.
Also, people usually remember a source of content that they’ve shared before so if you can earn a reputation as a reliable source of share-able content, your subscribers will prioritize your emails because of the likelihood that they will contain more share-able content on a regular basis.
6) Create email content that’s mobile-friendly.
Now that about half of all emails are read on mobile devices (a proportion that is steadily growing) and about 70% of people delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their mobile device, it’s more important than ever to approach your email content creation with a “mobile-first” attitude right from the outset. Even if you don’t have the technical know-how to code emails responsively, there is still a lot you can do to ensure that your emails render well on mobile devices and showcase your content for maximum impact even on tiny smartphone screens.
7) Don’t forget about the almighty subject line.
In email, your content is the catch of the day, but your subject line is the bait and the headline is the hook, so make sure that they both represent your content in the most tempting way possible. Remember, people are busy and there is already too much email in the world as it is so if you invest blood, sweat and tears into your content but forget to gate it with a kick-ass subject line, it may never see the light of day.
To sum up: Think of your brand as more than just a company with products to sell, but also with a personality and a story to tell. Whether you’re a retail brand or a B2B service, always try to approach your content creation with creativity. If you have something to sell, then by all means do, but remember that your subscribers connect with brands, not with products, so make sure that your email program includes a good balance between sales pitches and content that inspires an affinity for your brand, and the demand for your products will follow naturally.