Why Email Relationships Are Essential

Not sure it’s a good thing, but pretty much everything makes me think of email. Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group, gave the keynote at the DMA Monday morning. He was wonderful. He told the story of Virgin’s growth by harnessing innovation and challenging assumptions. He said he only enters new markets where he feels the existing players are not optimizing the opportunity. He has tied his business mission to a commitment to preserve the health of the environment. He was candid about the skepticism he has faced as he enters each new business. He told the story of privatizing the railroads in Britain, a project which was years late and more expensive than they had anticipated. Yet, today, Britons fly his airline, take his trains and, of course, still buy his records. The brand power, he says, is strong enough to persevere even when Virgin has to be honest with his customers — honest about delayed launches, cancelled flights and price increases.

So what does that have to do with email? Brands are built on customer relationships. So is a successful email program. If your email is not relevant and interesting, will the power of your brand help you persevere and protect channel revenue? Sorry, but I think it will not. Continue to send email that your customers don’t find interesting or helpful and they will not support you. They will complain to their ISPs, unsubscribe and ignore your messages. You may have short term success, but in the long run, both the brand and the channel will suffer. A bad experience with email is a bad experience with your brand – eroding your revenue potential.

Sir Branson has the luxury to reach so high — even when it results in an inconvenience to customers — because he course corrects, apologizes when he’s late and never puts his company’s brand on anything where he doesn’t believe will ultimately serve customers well. On balance, the positive experiences outweigh the negative, and the net experience is built on mutual trust. Can you say the same for your email program? Does your email program respect subscribers’ time, respond to their interests, help them succeed? If not, it’s not too late. Adjust your content and contact strategies to provide more relevant promotions and information. Email relationships – not just one-way email blasts – are not a “nice to have.” They are essential for long term revenue generation. Even a great brand can’t compensate for an irrelevant email program for very long.

Let me know what you think, and how you manage the challenge of balancing short term revenue with long term customer value. Or, if you were at DMA, what you got from Sir Branson’s talk.

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