I am delighted to introduce Ian Brodie as this month's guest blog writer.
Ian is a specialist in helping professional service firms attract and win more clients. He was recently named as one of the Top Global Thought Leaders in Marketing and Sales by Top Sales World magazine:
Email's Role in Accountancy Marketing
A week scarcely seems to pass these days without some new social media platform being lauded as the future of marketing. Just as we get to grips with Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter it seems they're old hat and we all have to start pinning and instagramming.
But are our clients really hopping onto every social media bandwagon? Do they really ignore communications via "old fashioned" channels? I think we need an injection of reality into all the hype.
And that's just what researchers Merkle did in their "View from the Digital Inbox" report published last year.
As expected, they charted the rapid rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. And they reported on the staggering amount of time spent on social sites each day.
But then they did something different. They asked the 3,535 respondents in their survey what their preferred personal and business communication methods were.
For all the age groups from 30+, telephone was the preferred method of personal communication. For the 18-29 age group it was text.
The second most preferred method for personal communication across the board: email.
And for business communication the results were even more stark. Across all age groups email came in as the number one preferred communication method by far, garnering 65%-78% of the vote depending on age group.
Social media not far behind?
Nope: no age age group had more than 4% of people saying they preferred social media. Direct mail and the phone all scored well above.
If you put aside the bluster of "social media experts" trying to sell you courses on social media and think about it for a moment then of course it makes sense.
You might make initial contact with someone on Linkedin or Twitter or even Facebook. But have you ever conducted serious business with a tweet or instant message? I didn't think so.
When business gets serious we send an email. Or pick up the phone.
So if email is the preferred communication channel for our clients, why is it that so many businesses struggle to get email marketing to work?
Well, one big problem is that most businesses copy their approach from the wrong examples.
They look at the emails they get from retailers like Amazon, Tesco or lastminute.com and do similar ones themselves.
But the trouble is that for most of us, our businesses aren't at all the transactional sales driven businesses that those retailers are.
For service businesses like accountants, lawyers and consultants, or businesses that sell high value products; our customers aren't inspired to hire us or buy from us because we've got a special offer on or an unbeatable 2 for 1 deal.
Clients hire us because we've built credibility and trust. So our emails need to do that.
For starters, they need to look like emails that someone they trust would send. And that means plain and simple. The fancy graphical templates that many businesses use just scream out "I'm trying to sell to you".
A few years ago MarketingExperiments.com ran a test on email formats. They found that emails with lots of graphics and formatting got 34% fewer clicks than plain text emails.
So stick to plain text with occasional bolding or highlighted links. The sort of emails you'd get from a friend or trusted business colleague.
Next you need to send useful, credibility building emails - not sales pitches. Emails that provide valuable information (in the areas you could later help them with). That's what builds credibility, not emails telling them how great you are and what awards you've won.
And write those emails in a way that builds a personal relationship. Tell stories, Share how you feel about things. Open up as a human being rather than writing in the sort of "professional" language that'll send your potential clients to sleep.
And you need to engage with your readers too. Instead of trying to automate everything, use your email marketing to open up conversations. Ask them questions and respond to their replies. Get them to complete a survey for you or just click a link.
The more interaction you have with them, the more they get used to taking action when you communicate with them, the more likely they are to eventually buy from you.
If you take these simple steps to upgrade your email marketing then pretty soon you'll be reaping the benefits of the real "top dog".
If you'd like to get better results from your email marketing you can sign up for Ian's free Email Marketing Power Tips course by clicking here.