Why the mailing list has to die, and how its rebirth will form the backbone of deep and valuable customer engagement.

Sign up to our newsletter. Join our mailing list. Keep up to date with us. Sounding familiar? Yup, and I imagine that same newsletter - perpetually lost or ignored in the depths of your inbox - is also familiar.

I imagine that if you’re reading this, it’s your job to make sure that the above doesn't happen. Ask most people on the street what they think about mailing lists and most probably they’ll shrug their shoulders and say that they don’t feel engaged with brands. Growing an engaged mailing list can feel like pushing water uphill. Winning a new customer and retaining them is hard. In this blog we look at how you can make it easier.

So, how do you solve it? Kill the mailing list.

Woah, don’t go deleting all that data (let’s not relive GDPR). It’s about reframing it for your customers, and for you. They’re not data. They’re people. They’re not email addresses, that’s just your ticket to that person. So if they’re people, and you (when it comes down to it) are people, then they’re not signing up to a newsletter. They’re signing up to a relationship. A relationship where you talk to them, not at them. One where you give them things, not just telling them that they should give you things.

The appetite for connecting with a brand is there, but it’s just that - a connection. A two-way thing.

This isn’t a new idea, however. You’ll know the term: CRM. Customer Relationship Management. It’s in so many marketeers’ vocabulary - that word relationship - but taking a step back and basing a strategy on it is a much rarer thing.

This is all well and good to say, but it’s still a ‘mass relationship’. So, how do you do it? How do you get your customers to not only join, but become increasingly engaged with you? Every relationship is different, takes learning and effort, but here are a few practical ideas to get you started.

Call it something
Whether it be a club, a gang, a family or becoming a friend. You need a thing for people to join. Something tangible that is beyond a newsletter, because it’s not a newsletter that they’re signing up to. The newsletter is just one of the ways the ‘thing’ is delivered - a method of communicating the thing they’re signing up to.

Tell them what they can expect from the outset
Call this the ‘value exchange’ when you’re in a meeting to sound smart. Tell them what they can expect when they join and how often they can expect more. Why is it worth their time over and over again. Whether it’s member discount, ability to pre-order, birthday treats, special invites, behind the scenes, great news, competitions - the list goes on. Let them know what they’ll get, and don’t be pushy.

Give them exclusivity
Make sure there is something members genuinely get, some kind of ‘value’, that people who aren’t signed up don’t have access to. And make sure they know it, too.

Deliver on everything you’ve promised
Make sure that you’re set up to deliver on everything you’ve promised and in a timely way. Word of mouth is still the most powerful thing, so if you genuinely impress your members, it’ll spread naturally.

Decide what you want to find out about them
You need to decide on what to collect. There’s no point in asking for the customer’s surname if you’re never going to use it. Don’t make mobile mandatory as it will turn the customer off. Make sure that you ask for DOB if one of the goals is to generate birthday revenue. If you want to understand segment information such as profession then do it on a second page or later on in the welcome journey. What we are getting at here is that you’ll put people off by asking loads of questions.

Use data from all your touchpoints
It’s not just a form on your website, to really succeed, you have to look across all your data collection points and processors. For example: booking, WiFi, check-out, contact, feedback, loyalty… we’re sure you’ve got the picture. It's a whole, holistic approach rather than trying to differentiate between customers. That comes later when you understand their behaviour. Treat all these things with the same overall strategy at this stage.

Take it slowly
It’s a relationship after all. When you sit down to consider what your ‘club’ (or whatever it might be) is, and how you might use technology, marketing, commercial and creative ideas to drive your database, you’ll likely quickly find yourself with a shed load of work and more questions than answers. Sure write it all down, but choose one thing, just one, that you can focus on and get set up. Do that, and do it well, then build on it. For example, if part of your plan is to have a welcome offer delivered in a beautifully designed and worded email, then focus on that first. Get it live, see how it’s doing. Then build on that journey.

Have no resource or room to discount?
There are all sorts of ways to give value. With skill and careful craft, it can be done through the power of words, and words only. Tone of voice can go a long way. No giving away margin, no setting up offers, mechanics and sending codes. Knowing your audience and getting them invested can be done just through the power of personality.

Still want to offer something? Try creating value rather than giving it away. Creating value for customers that increase overall spend can be just as compelling i.e. Book a party of 8 and get a free bottle of prosecco.

Build the relationship ecosystem slowly.
Test. Don’t jump in with everything you can think of at once. You’ll never get there. Pick a thing, do it very well, and add to it.

Give it a whirl, do some reading, some learning, some testing. Rinse and repeat. It’s about getting to know your audience and producing amazing things that they’ll be interested in, relentlessly, to deliver on your business goals.

We know a thing or two about all this, so get in touch with us to give your mailing list a new life.