Danny says ... Don't ditch that email list
Danny Bermant explains why GDPR is an opportunity for small business
An interview with Danny Bermant, Director of Inbox Express
Danny visited Vanessa's Facebook Café at the B2C Marketing Expo (London) in March 2018. We chatted about the challenges small business owners face, maintaining a strong presence on social media, as well as marketing their business using email. Danny Bermant is the Founder of Inbox Express – a library of email templates, designed to help you nurture your relationship with your readers, and then turn them into customers.
Keen to learn more about using templates in email marketing and how they could help my customers, I asked Danny if I could interview him. Danny clarified what GDPR means for email and how Inbox Express helps businesses get results through email marketing. This blog post is a summary of our Zoom interview on 6th June 2018.
Prefer to listen? You can play back our informal chat on Danny's channel on YouTube (35 minutes).
Danny and I welcome your comments on the subject of email marketing here or on YouTube.
Email Marketing: Is it still relevant?
1. How does Inbox Express help small businesses with email marketing, Danny?
Danny: We help business owners who want to use email to communicate with their subscribers, but:
- don't know what to say
- don't have time to write emails and
- never see any results from their emails
The Inbox Express system provides all the email templates businesses need to communicate effectively with their mailing list.
2. How do you think email marketing will change in the wake of GDPR?
Danny: Some companies have scored a massive own goal. Many who have a perfectly legitimate reason to email their subscribers have gone over the top, asking people to re-subscribe when it's just not necessary. As a result, many businesses have lost as many as 95% of their subscribers.
The reality is, everyone gets tons of email. Even if they love what you do, they're not going to re-opt in – and then you've lost them. But that does create an opportunity, because post 25th May, lots of companies have stopped emailing you. You're no longer on their list. And that's created an empty space.
So if you are a business with a mailing list, where people have opted in, then you now have an audience who've got a lot less email in their inbox. This means they're more likely to pay attention to what you're sharing. That's a huge opportunity. Companies who've taken the right advice and haven't deleted all their subscribers will be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
3. Did business owners even need to ask me to opt in again - or could they've kept me as an existing subscriber on their list?
Danny: You should always get proper legal advice, but in brief, you need to review your database and check whether people have opted in. If they've opted in, you need to have a record of how they opted in, so you can confirm that if they ask you.
One thing we've seen in the last months is a herd mentality, where companies haven't taken proper advice. They've been lazy, seeing everybody else doing things a certain way and then they've followed.
One of the most extraordinary examples I've seen was an email from a business coach saying "Guys, I'm not going to be emailing you anymore. I'm sticking to networking and phone calls." I thought what an own goal! What a bad example, because he's supposed to be helping people get more business and email is still one of the most important marketing channels for that.
4. Is there still a place for email marketing alongside the many social media platforms we have today?
Danny: Email marketing and social media are both part of building a relationship with your customer. So if you think of a sales funnel, where you've got your target market, there are a very large number of people who might be interested in your product. Some of them will become your social media fans. They'll follow you on Facebook, on Twitter and over time, some of them will be interested in what you have to offer and make an enquiry with you.
Email is very powerful for building a closer relationship. Perhaps the prospect wants to attend a webinar you're running or to download a 'How To' guide you've produced. Email offers you a little bit more intimacy than you typically get with social media.
On social media, you may not see all updates a business has posted, whereas email comes into your Inbox, where all your business and personal correspondence is. So if you want to get someone's attention, you're more likely to get it there than anywhere else. With the proviso that you're saying something that's relevant, so people actually open it!
5. It's difficult to keep on top of all the inboxes we have on social media today, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp etc. Is your aim to draw people into your Inbox?
Danny: Yes, we're notified in so many different ways. That's why I avoid saying this platform's good, that platform's bad. When we promote webinars, for example, we do so through our email list. But one of our partners has a really big following on LinkedIn, so he's driven a lot of traffic to our webinars by sharing it with his LinkedIn audience. So yes, you need to understand where your audience are and learn over time which combination of channels works best for you.
Social media messages tend to be short, whereas emails can contain longer messages. Let's say you're a clinic, and you've got a potential customer who's interested in a particular type of treatment. They want to know how this treatment works and what the after effects are, so you need before and after photographs. You can easily include that visual detail in an email. Customers wouldn't necessarily expect that level of personal engagement from other social media.
6. Email is often associated with newsletters and spam. Your approach to email is quite different, isn't it, so how do you distinguish between different types of email template?
Danny: I hate the phrase newsletter. "In this month's edition" works well on a printed newsletter, but not in an email. I believe there are two types of email:
Weekly emails - these include tips, advice, insights and the occasional offer.
- Sequences of emails - these are a series of emails, sent weekly or every few days. Sequences can consist of seven or eight emails over a period of a couple of weeks or many emails during a particular week. They're used to promote a particular offer, idea or campaign.
Example of an email sequence: Suppose you're running a webinar. Most people send a single email announcing the webinar and that's it. Most registrants will forget about it. Whereas if you run a campaign, you use a sequence of emails. For example, you might:
- Share some information about the star speaker
- Request questions from registrants they'd like to covered in the webinar
- Send reminders a week or a day before the webinar
- Send a reminder ten minutes before the webinar starts
All these emails build up momentum about the main event. And practically, most people are very busy and need regular reminders.
We recommend all your emails relate to specific themes. If you jump too much from one subject to another, your readers will be unclear about what you do.
7. Do you use any marketing automation tools with your templates?
Danny: A lot of people become very fixated on technology. They go straight for Infusionsoft, but that's overkill for most of our clients. It's like using a Ferrari to go shopping at the supermarket!
If you're just starting out emailing your clients more regularly, you can just start automating emails first. MailChimp is a really good place to start. It's an intuitive, user-friendly platform. They provide amazing, fast support via live chat.
Once you're ready to send automated responses based on actions a visitor takes on your website, then you might upgrade to something like ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign does a lot of what Infusionsoft does, but it's a lot less complicated. It's also less expensive and more user-friendly.
As an aside - Vanessa Hunt Consulting can assist with Marketing Automation software selection if you'd like some help navigating your choices.
8. Do you have any recommendations about how to format your email or best practice with regards to using visuals or video in your emails?
Danny: When you're deciding how image-rich your emails should be, it really depends on what you do. I buy a lot of products from Amazon, so unsurprisingly their email content is very visual. On the other hand, if you're a consultant or a doctor providing, let's say, Botox treatment, well then you need to be more personal to make readers more likely to respond to you. In the same way that I'm more likely to read an email that looks like it's come from somebody I know, you're more likely to read an email that's slightly less branded and looks more like a real email.
If you're doing consultancy work, it's actually a little bit better to limit your graphics. Maybe just using your logo at the top and your signature at the bottom. You should only include visuals where you really need them to supplement your message. Perhaps you're trying to teach somebody a principle where you want to show that model, or it might be that you're carrying out medical procedures and you want to show a couple of before and after photos.
With video it's not a problem, because you can include a still image of the video (just like we've done in this blog post), so people can click on it to be taken to the external source, like your website or YouTube.
Think about what business you're in and what seems sensible.
9. It's good practice to include a Call To Action (CTA) to take readers to your website or to a particular landing page where they can find more details, isn't it?
Danny: Yes, people wise up to what's in their Inbox. They use basic visual signals to help them decide what to respond to. If an email starts with "I don't want to take up any of your time…", you know this person's going to take up a lot of your time, right? At the same time, if people see an email contains a lot of graphics, people might think this is a brand that wants to talk about their products.
So think about how people respond when they receive certain types of emails. If it's a text-based email, they're more likely to open it and to actually read it.
10. You've a large collection of email templates people can sign up to use. How templated do the emails look? How many words would businesses typically need to add to customise them?
Danny: Let me start with why people would use templates. Most business owners are not necessarily copywriters. The most difficult thing about being a business owner is you've got particular skills and when it comes to developing your business, you can't be a skilled web designer, a skilled copywriter and all those things. Nor should you be.
If you're time poor, you don't have time to start learning how to write emails from scratch. What you really want to have is some sort of system, much like the templates you might use as the basis for a new website. The same goes with emails. If you knew there were emails out there that were tried and tested, that had been used by other businesses, that worked and got responses and engagement, why would you try writing them yourself? That's the whole purpose of our templates.
The Inbox Express templates are mostly text-based, so all you need to do is open a Word document, copy the text and paste it into whatever email system you're using. So about 90% of the email is written for you. You just have to modify the essential 10% that makes the email relate to your company, your customer and the problems your customer has.
The templates have brackets in them where you need to replace the text, and also include a completed example to show you how that would apply in practice. Also there are instructions about how to use the email and why it needs to be used in that way.
11. Do you have different templates for different campaigns or industries? How do you categorise your selection of templates?
Danny: It's driven by what you want to achieve. Here are examples of our core categories:
ONBOARDING TEMPLATES: Some businesses have never emailed their subscribers before. So it's very much about onboarding - getting people familiar with who your company is and what it does. You want to make sure that if people join your email list or download something from your website, they know how your company can help them. That's a really essential step you need to take.
A lot of companies go quite fast into the selling part. Marketing is a bit like a courtship. You can't propose marriage to somebody if you don't know who they are. So you need to break the ice, and that's what the onboarding sequence is all about.
EXPERTISE TEMPLATES: These templates are used to promote you as an expert in your industry. So they're specific emails about how to share tips, how to share ideas and insights, and how to share examples of mistakes you want to help your customers avoid. This also includes sharing case studies too.
CONTENT TEMPLATES: This section is for businesses who have content they want to share. For example books they've published, white papers and webinars. They want to drive people to their content, but they don't want to bore them by repeating the same messages. So this selection is really about encouraging people to consume your content and demonstrate your expertise.
SALES TEMPLATES: This section is all about how to sell products and services. In particular, how to present an offer without boring people. If you're launching a new product, how do you go about launching your product so people are excited about it? If you're promoting an event, how do you promote that event and fill it? There are specific emails that need to be sent in a particular order, so you download a whole set of emails.
Another question that may crop up is "Will I run out of emails?" Our library continues to grow and there are going to be all sorts of avenues you can use to communicate with your customers.
Having said that, none of us like being spammed, so there are two things to avoid:
- You want to avoid selling the whole time because that's how you burn your lists. You turn people off if all you're ever doing is pushing offers. Nobody likes being sold to the whole time.
- You also want to avoid not selling! One thing most businesses get wrong is that they're very good at marketing, such as sharing insights and ideas. But they never actually ask for your business. If you never present what you do as an offer, they'll never buy anything from you.
So we have a quarterly consultancy call with you. We talk about selling as part of our service. We help you get the balance right, so you're not just marketing successfully - you're also selling.
12. Do you have any other advice to offer small business owners?
Danny: The most important thing is to have a deep understanding of your customers and what problems they're having.
When you ask most businesses what problems their customers have, their response tends to be quite superficial. An accountant might say their customer wants to save tax. But on a much deeper level, it might be rather that they have cash flow problems, they don't know if they're going to be able to pay their corporation tax this year. Or they're struggling with current staff turnover and don't know if they're going to be in business this time next year.
If you have a much deeper understanding of where your customers are coming from, you're more likely to be able to help them and get their interest. When they look at what's coming into their inbox, the thing that always jumps out is a Subject that answers the question "What's in it for me?"
Most businesses don't do nearly enough research into what is already going on in their customers' world, what's going on in their mind, and what's going on in their business. If you can really tap into that, you're already way ahead of your competitors.
13. Yes, identifying your target audience is crucial. Would you agree that defining your buyer personas makes communicating your marketing messages much simpler?
Danny: Absolutely! Sometimes what we do is quite transformational. A lot of businesses don't have a strategy in terms of who are their customers, what that business is about, and how they can help.
When we start talking to them about who their customers are, what their customers' problems are, what ultimately happens is the whole business starts to tilt in how it starts to look at its customers and how it needs to approach those customers.
14. Tilting. I like that. So, how can businesses sign up to use your email templates?
Danny: You can subscribe to Inbox Express on our website. It's a recurring monthly subscription of $197 (about £150 - £160 a month). When you subscribe, you're invited to book a consultation call, where we take you through your next three month strategy.
15. So you provide consultancy to help companies work effectively with your templates?
Danny: Yes, we provide consultancy once a quarter. If you just sign up because you want to download some templates to help you, you're not going to get the best out of them. You need to know which are the right templates to use, and in which order.
16. How many templates are included with Inbox Express?
Danny: You start with a library of seventy templates, but that library continues to grow as we're always adding new templates to it.
17. How can people learn more about Inbox Express?
Danny: Our website is https://www.inbox-express.com or simply Google 'Inbox Express' and you'll find us.
Alternatively, you can take a five minute tour of Inbox Express.
Email marketing opens up deeper conversations
Vanessa Hunt: I was sceptical about the power of email marketing before speaking to Danny. Probably because I've been bombarded by overzealous marketing automation in the past. I can see that, used sensitively, email marketing and appropriate use of templates helps small business owners develop their business, especially in this unusual period where Inboxes are slightly quieter.
Takeaway #1: GDPR presents us with an opportunity. Individuals' Inboxes are emptier, so now is a good time for you to email your subscribers.
Takeaway #2: Email series complement other types of marketing like event marketing and social media campaigns, allowing you to provide supplementary details.
Takeaway #3: Email marketing is not dead. Used sensitively, it provides a powerful, intimate communication channel.
I have a newly-earned respect for email now.
How has your opinion of email marketing changed?
How has GDPR affected your Inbox? Are you receiving fewer emails post 25th May? Have you re-subscribed to many lists?
If you'd like to hear to the interview in full, listen to Vanessa Hunt in conversation with Danny Bermant.
Written by Vanessa Hunt
Vanessa worked as an independent CRM Consultant from 2006, before establishing Vanessa Hunt Consulting Ltd in January 2010. She's held training and management positions in software organisations and consultancies such as Maximizer Software Ltd, McAfee, Detica and CSC Computer Sciences. With twenty years' experience in training, marketing and CRM, she's very much at home in anything martech, CRM or cloud related. When she's not in the classroom in heels, she's outdoors in muddy boots!