Launch Email Conversations, Not Campaigns

Email marketing is one of the most effective – and lowest cost – ways for small businesses to promote themselves. But there’s a big gap between businesses that do it well, and those that leave a lot on the table by approaching it wrong.

Most business owners still think in terms of “campaigns” and craft their email marketing with a “direct mail” mindset. For one thing, you should stop thinking of email in terms of “blasts.” As the email marketing experts at the marketing technology platform Marketo point out, “Nobody wants to get blasted.”

With big email “blasts”, businesses think they’re saving money and reaching people quickly. But with recipients – all of us included – inundated with emails, the “batch and blast” approach is destined to fail.

Today, customers in both B2C and B2B want and expect highly relevant and personalized emails. Anything short of that will draw immediate opt-out, and perhaps complaints as well.

The Solution is Conversation

Email Marketing

Your marketing or sales messages by themselves are not enough to gain attention. You have to give people a reason to engage by offering value. Your goal is to strike up an ongoing “conversation” with email recipients that builds engagement over time.

Your emails should have a logical flow, much like a conversation, leading from one mutually-interesting topic to another. By including links (to videos, articles, etc.) and downloads (infographics, presentations or other items you’ve prepared), you can draw readers in and get them engaged.

This means it’s not just you talking at them. Your email should spark some kind of action on their part (clicking a link or a download button, for example) to keep the “conversation” going and progressing.

And just as in a “live” conversation, you need to listen and adapt along the way by adjusting your messages and offers to how recipients are reacting to what you’ve already said or sent.

Marketing technology can help. By using an email marketing platform such as Marketo, Pardot (owned by Salesforce), Constant Contact or others, you can have the ability to listen and respond to each potential customer at every point in the sales process.

As you get more sophisticated, you can trigger new messages based on what the recipient did with your last one. Someone who didn’t open it, for example, gets one thing. Others who opened but did not take action get something different. And those who opened and clicked or downloaded something, get yet another message.

Engaging Conversation Ideas

So what does this look like in actual practice? The best email conversations tell a mini-story with a beginning, middle and end, like the plot of a novel. Here are a few snippets of conversations suggested by experts at Marketo, who’ve screened millions of emails:

  • Check out this article.
  • Download our new eBook.
  • Here’s what others are doing.
  • See our latest offering.
  • Are you ready to buy?
  • Join us at our event.
  • 5 fun ways to learn more about us.

Here are four ways to improve your email marketing effectiveness:

1. Watch your email frequency: Sending too many emails can quickly kill your effort and lead to high unsubscribe rates. Look for solutions that let you control the number of emails a given recipient gets, even if they are included in several lists.

2. Never serve the same dish twice: It’s wasteful – not to mention annoying – to send the same offer to someone who’s already downloaded your content or purchased the product you’re pitching. Track what recipients have done so you can make adjustments going forward.

3. Deactivate stale content: Not only should you be creating a steady stream of new content, you also should keep an eye on existing content. Items can get stale. You should either freshen them up, or take them offline.

4. Coordinate your effort across channels: Email marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It influences – and is influenced by – other channels. Coordinate messages in print, mobile, digital, radio, etc., and track results so you have a holistic picture of what is happening over all.

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About the Author

Daniel Kehrer, headshotDaniel Kehrer, Founder & Managing Director of BizBest Media Corp., is a nationally-known, award-winning expert on small and local business, start-ups, content marketing, entrepreneurship and social media, with an MBA from UCLA/Anderson. Read more of Daniel's tips at, follow him at and connect on LinkedIn at
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