We need to be honest. No one tells you the truth about email marketing. It’s not that industry thought leaders are lying to you, but you’re only receiving snippets of the facts.

Here it goes: email marketing doesn’t sell directly.

A 2-second Google search unveils a feast of digital marketing strategy articles, almost all of which proclaim that email marketing is not dead. We agree: announcing new services via email is a worthwhile endeavor.

But while email marketing is alive and well, there is a caveat to the common wisdom. Email marketing isn’t dead, but it’s not necessarily alive. At least, not how businesses use it today.

There’s a reason behind this dramatic shift. Email marketing remains in a state of consistent evolution, as product-centric email content has ceased to be viable. No longer can digital marketers and small businesses treat the practice as if it were a paint-by-numbers operation of features and benefits.

Not to worry. We have the recipe for email marketing that builds your community and empowers you to stay ahead in spite of latest best practices.

State the facts.

Facts and education are key success indicators. Even statistics. While you may cringe at the thought of sending your people info they’d find on a spreadsheet, know that any relevant content builds your credibility.

Enlightening your audience means that you care about them. In providing data, you show them what’s at stake and how you can help them achieve more.

For example, we can safely assume that you want to improve your email marketing. The fact that you’re reading this makes that clear. That said, here a few facts that you need to know:

  • Only 31% of small businesses will use email marketing to build relationships.
  • Only 16% of companies cite marketing content (including email) as a priority for their business.
  • Only 22% of online retailers and service providers place an emphasis on optimizing the customer experience—an accolade seamlessly achieved within email marketing.

The numbers don’t lie. Something must be done about email marketing effectiveness. Facts will take you so far, but there are many more strategies to implement.

Spark a dialogue.

Conversation is a biggie, but email is often used as a one-way street.

By “spark a dialogue,” we mean your email should act as real life, two-way chat. You should not only deliver information, but also receive it. As one of your goals is to stay abreast of your lists’ needs, using email to gather this information will be your saving grace.

In fact, you can even move beyond surveys to get your mitts on some truly juicy information. Simply ask your list to reply to you directly. This turns a one-sided conversation into a heart-to-heart that proves you’re willing to make good things happen.

Even if not all recipients hit the reply button, the good karma still has a positive effect on your customer relationships.

Trust us on this one. We’ve seen the amazing results “the reply initiative” has produced. For example, a technology company that specializes in educational software implemented a marketing email campaign that allowed recipients to ask questions and give feedback.

This made the audience of principals and administrators feel as if they were listened to—that the company placed value on their unique needs. Needless to say, many lucrative contracts were signed.

Present no-strings-attached value.

Give the audience something of value each time you send an email. Your prospects give you time, so give them something in return.

This practice is now standard.

Marketing emails have evolved so much that their chief purpose has changed completely. Advertising and sales have become an effect of something much more grand.

In other words, if your email marketing is effective, it doesn’t directly advertise or push products. While those are still the ultimate goals, it’s not the chief function anymore.

Don’t forget: the most important operation is now community building. Each time your prospect decides to open an email, they will expect to extract something out of it.

To teach a skill, provide a tool, or enlighten on a relevant topic—that’s your mission. When you shift your focus from sales to nurturing, the conversions start happening.

This technique works across multiple industries. Even a simple value proposition builds enough goodwill to increase your conversion rate.

  1. If you run a catering company, offer a free recipe.
  2. If you specialize in pet health, provide a video on therapeutic dog massage.

The possibilities are truly endless.

Tell the reader’s story.

No one wants to be bored. Luckily, storytelling provides the antidote to this dilemma.

Telling your readers’ stories shows that you’re thinking about them, and that you understand their goals, dreams, and struggles. Take a look at your testimonials, and you’ll find solid story fodder that will excite and engage your email recipients.

Storytelling is a proven standard, and one that’s often forgotten in email marketing content. However, you can also implement a multimedia approach that creates variety and ensures your audience remains engaged.

Don’t be afraid to send out a video, a downloadable report, or an infographic every now and then.

Relearn your buyer persona.

Quality emails come from a place of empathy and goodwill. Study your target market and keep tabs on their evolving needs. Even if you’ve already completed this task months ago, do it again.

Email marketing has shifted because target demographics have also evolved. New technology, social paradigms, economic fluctuations, and age all bear weight on how your customer avatar experiences the world.

Every day there are new desires and struggles. People change, and email marketing evolves as a result. When you revisit your customer blueprint and tweak your nurture plan to coincide with the most updated information, you win the email marketing game.

Keep this in mind: a keen understanding of the customer avatar is a piece of the puzzle. Crafting professional-level email marketing copy is a completely different animal.

It takes an expert who knows your market and understands that the average business owner doesn’t have the time to craft dozens of marketing emails, each with their own purpose.

The hard part is that quality copywriters are a tough find. Luckily you don’t have to look any further.