How To Respect Time and Attention in Email Marketing

time and attention

This morning, I received an email from a multibillion-dollar company telling me I had scored something free. We’re big fans of (good) email marketing here at RAEK, and the subject line made me curious, so I opened the email. I found that I had “scored” an opportunity to market their product for them and a “task” to complete for a miniscule account credit, i.e. I scored nothing.

The company is aimed at busy professionals who are willing to pay for convenience. The fact they assumed asking their audience to take time out of their day for a tiny credit would land well, shocked me. It didn’t respect their audience’s time or attention. Fortunately, for them, I’m far too lazy (and busy) to switch to a different company, but if I wasn’t – I would be out. 

The purpose of this blog post is twofold:

  1. To encourage you to send the email – Don’t be afraid to send emails because there are businesses with far more resources than you have, screwing up all the time, i.e. it’s better to send the email than not. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
  2. Respecting your audience’s time and attention with your marketing is important if you want to create raving fans. Here are the boxes you need to check.

How to Respect Time and Attention in Email Marketing

Respecting Time and Attention in email marketing

1. Know Your Audience

The problem with the above example was the disconnect between the message and the audience. If you have someone’s email, they’ve shown interest in your brand and said, “Hey, I think I belong here”. Make sure you show them they are indeed in the right place. 

There isn’t a shortcut to customer research. We’re not talking about demographics here. We’re talking about behaviors and life events and who they want to be at the end of the day – the things which actually lead people to purchase products. 

Knowing your audience requires talking to your current customers and listening to their stories. What was going on in their lives before they found you? What happened the day they realized they needed a solution? What are their pain points?

Interviewing your customers will also provide you with customer vocabulary, let you know what competitors they considered, and provide valuable product feedback. 

Most of all, it allows you to stop guessing what your customer wants. 

Once you know exactly who your customer is, the other steps will be easy. 

2. Switch Gears From Growth to Nurture

We’ve said before that ads are the first date and emails are where people say yes. If you ask someone to marry you on the second date, they’re probably going to say no and quickly block your number.

However, if you date for a while and have a chance to get to know each other and determine if you’re a good fit, the answer is more likely to be yes. 

Nurture the relationship with your customer. Provide them with the information they need to determine whether you’re a good fit or not. 

3. Remember It’s a Value Exchange

Value is the name of the game. A customer has given you direct access to their inbox — the app they likely open more than any other app on their phone. Honor access to them by providing value.

Imagine you had an acquaintance who said, “Hey, you should buy something from me” or “Hey, you should do something for me”. Every time you saw them. 

My guess is you would quickly start dodging this person when you saw them in public. 

Now imagine you have an acquaintance who you learn something interesting from every time you see them. Or they’re entertaining. Or they inspire you. Or they ask questions because they are interested in learning about you? 

You would be happy to bump into this person out in the wild. You might even be excited. 

There are few emails I am excited to get, but there are many that pack so much value, I consistently open them. 

So how do you become the second person? The email people want to open. 

1. Make sure you know who you are talking to, so the content is relevant. 

2. Think about the categories I mentioned above 

Educate your readers

People love to learn new things and if they found their way to your website they want to learn from you. You don’t even have to educate them with your own content. You can compile other people’s content or show them where they can find the information.

Entertain them

Create sharable content or share other people’s sharable content. People love to be entertained.

Inspire them

Company stories, employee stories, customer stories, stories that show people what’s possible, give people ideas, or provide creative inspiration. 

Interact

Ask questions. You wouldn’t believe how many people will respond to emails if you ask a question or for feedback.

Again, none of these will land right if you haven’t done your customer research. 

4. Consistency

Be consistent. Being consistent builds trust and relationships. Figure out a pace at which you can consistently create valuable content, and then stick to it. 

One of our favorite newsletters comes from a marketer and I have absolutely no idea what his name is. Why? He’s extremely inconsistent. We always feel like we’ve found an easter egg when we open his emails, “Who is this? Oh, it’s this guy!” But then we don’t receive anything for months, and we quickly forget he exists. 

On the other hand, another of our favorite emails arrives every Tuesday. We look forward to it. We consistently share it and tell others about it.  

Both emails are equally loved, but we only share one of them because it’s easy to recall when you see the name on a weekly basis. 

Don’t let your customers forget who you are. 

Consistency wins. Every time. 

5. Don’t Focus on the Sale

Switch gears from sales to nurture. Sales and promotional content can be valuable. You wouldn’t be in business if the product you sold wasn’t valuable. But only selling will quickly drain your subscribers, and you will quickly lose their attention. Constant selling also doesn’t respect their time. 

Focus instead on helping your customer solve their problems and weave your product in as a possible solution.  Consumers don’t want to be told what to do. 

Provide value, be helpful, and they’ll remember you when they are ready to buy. 

6. Show You Understand Their Problem

What is the pain point that led someone to sign up for your newsletter or buy your product. Your emails should address those pain points in a way that makes your customer feel seen and heard.

In the email example I opened this post with, I buy the product to save time because my life is busy. Email marketing and promotions from the company should speak to that and the resulting pain points from not having enough hours in the day. 

If you’ve nailed step one, this will be easy. You can write content addressing how to solve X problem, How to improve X area of their life, tell stories of others solving X problem or improving their life, tell your own story about why you started doing what you do.

Make customers feel like they belong.

7. Solve Your Audience’s Problems

Go beyond simply understanding the problem and solve it. 

When a person lands on your site, they rarely buy right away because they’re not always sure what their problem is,  if you can actually solve it, or if they trust you enough to solve it. To build trust, solve the problem they think they have or portions of the larger problem. 

Casper mattress did this by bringing people who couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night to their All Things Snooze section of the Casper Blog, with resources about supplements and breathing techniques to improve sleep. They solved the immediate problem, not being able to sleep, before people realized the root of the problem, needing a new mattress. When people were ready to purchase a mattress, they already trusted Casper. 

The Pioneer Woman does this by providing ample recipes on her website. You can try out her recipes, see if your family likes the food, if the portions are big enough, how time intensive the recipes are, and if the ingredients are readily available in your area, all before buying a cookbook. When a new cookbook comes out, people already know if it will solve their problems and what they will be getting. 

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Marketing which doesn’t respect time and attention will almost always fail. Honor the access they have given you to their inbox with valuable content that speaks to their pain point.

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The RAEK Team

RAEK was built by a group of digital marketers on a mission to help small businesses grow and easily utilize their first-party customer data.