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How Email Marketing Is Like Dating

When customers share their email address, they’re essentially taking a leap of faith to get to know your company. They’ve given you inside access to their information in hopes that you’ll add value over time. Similar to getting to know a potential partner, loyalty and passion are earned over time.

Just like a personal relationship, there are various steps that must be taken to reach full commitment. The ice breaker sets the tone of the relationship, then the first date assesses real interest, and finally it might be love. Interest is piqued and expectations are set, so it’s up to you to prove your worth with personalized communication that’s relevant to your customer.

The following guidelines will help your company communicate authenticity, interest, and determination.

The ice breaker—justify the opt-in

All marketing is a conversation. The popularity of social media proves that customers want and value being communicated with and not to. While customers choose to follow or like people on social, they’re offering an even greater opportunity when they opt in to an email program. In that case, they’re willingly letting you into their personal daily habit, which should not be taken lightly. Unlike broadcast radio or billboards, customers choose email because they feel they have a choice in what they’re subscribing to.

For example, marketing can be compared to meeting someone for the first time. There is nothing worse than having someone say the exact same thing to you as they did your neighbor.  The practice of using generic lines on many different “prospects” in hopes of getting someone to like you doesn’t work, at least not often. Because they are convenient, one-liners are used frequently, but seldom generate the expected return.

The business equivalent of a pick-up line is the generic batch and blast email to all of your customers. Instead of settling for what’s convenient, send personal emails. Show genuine interest in your customers by listening to what they are interested in and offering similar product suggestions. Send email with personalized subject lines, greetings, and content at the time your customer actually wants to receive it. This effort should win you a first date.

The first date—meet expectations

Customers continue sharing more and more information because they like tailored offers. They want to be informed of new recommendations that solve their wants, needs, or problems, including the ones they don’t even know they have yet. Meeting that expectation and exceeding it is really why customers opt in to email programs. As such, every email address a company collects must be viewed as a permission slip to help satisfy that customer.

This is no different than a first date. When you agree to go on the date, it’s because you’ve anticipated a common connection. You want to interact with someone you’ve determined to be somehow interesting and entertaining. The first date could lead to a long-term relationship, a new friend, or just an interesting experience. Regardless of the end-game, a terrible first date usually results from misaligned interests.

Every time customers give your company an email address, they are agreeing to a first date.  They’re hoping the company will have similar interests and that a spark will take place. Parking a billboard with the wrong product in a customer’s inbox is a feeble attempt to create that connection. In fact, one-size-fits-all messages decrease the likelihood for a second date.  Instead, be relevant to each individual customer by personalizing your email and maybe you’ll have the beginning of a beautiful relationship.


Long-term relationship—get personal

The technology to send customized email exists, but many companies still only segment their customers according to one piece of data—gender, age, household composition, purchase history, etc. Segmenting a group of customers based on one piece of data is the bare minimum a company can do to personalize its outreach. Using more complete data to predict what each customer will enjoy allows you to exceed expectations (and potential sales) for each email sent.

In the dating world it’s the equivalent of assuming every guy likes the same movies, restaurants, and bands. By just ticking the boxes and ignoring each person’s real interests, you’re killing your credibility which will likely lead to the relationship’s demise.

To show customers what they’re worth and to keep them interested for the long haul, companies have to use their resources to personalize each individual email. Incorporating data moves customer interactions from simple interactions to long-term loyalty. Customers who were interested enough to offer their email addresses were agreeing to a first date. Make that first date and all that follows personal and customers will feel like you really know them.

SimpleRelevance founder and CEO Erik Severinghaus has been participating in the 2013 TechStars Chicago summer program in which startups are given the opportunity to work with the best of the best in their fields to move the needle in just three months.

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