Thursday, November 3, 2011

Email Communication Gone Mad

There is no doubt that the way in which we communicate has changed at an incredible pace over the past decade. Email replaced telephone calls and physical mail almost entirely.

Then, of course, just like telemarketers would make annoying calls to us at dinnertime, emails pushing everything from miracle cures and sex-related enhancers clogged up our inboxes. Well, the telemarketers have been reigned in because of the "do not call" registry, and Internet providers have found a way to block all that spam--well at least most of it.

Email communication is one of the most important ways for small businesses to reach out to their customers. Online businesses like Distinctive Sewing Supplies have customers all over North America and to communicate with them online is important. Physical mail is just cost prohibitive and wasteful.

Respecting the privacy of customers is paramount when it comes to email communication. Having a privacy policy and permission-based communication is ethical and makes sound business sense. Using an email communication provider like Constant Contact (which I use), means you have to abide by their stringent policies in that regard or lose your account.

I started collecting permission-based email addresses at consumer shows over seven years ago. Individuals may also opt into my email list through my website and my facebook page or just by sending an email to me. Every email newsletter I send out has an opt-out link at the top and the bottom of the page. There is no one that I email that hasn't positively opted-in.

So you would think that all would be well in the world of email communication with my customers. Well it's good but it's not as good as it once was. Why? Because of a new phenomena--email fatigue.

I sign up for emails from my competitors and from businesses that I am interested in. I'm sure they do the same. Mostly it's to keep up to date with what is going on in the world of sewing and to judge the trends. Here's what I have discovered:

A. I look forward to the newsletters from companies that are organized and have a clear, often consistent message to convey. eQuilter is one example. I receive an email every Friday with information on new products and sales. They have since added a mid-week communication called "Creative Nudge". I don't read that one because the Friday newsletter is sufficient. If they drop it I wouldn't miss it. Another example is Dover Publications. They also send a Friday newsletter with a link to free samples from their books. I download the pictures I like but I have purchased a lot of Dover Publications as a result of this nice end of week "freebie".

B. I enjoy newsletters from organizations that I belong to like Pattern Review. They inform me about new patterns, contests and the like. The newsletters come when there is something to say. There are also a number of independent artists like Marcy Tilton, Katherine Tilton and Diane Ericson that communicate when they have something unique to share.

C. Then there are the online fabric stores that started inundating me with several emails a week. When the recession hit, it seemed that the emails just kept coming. There were sales after sales, flash sales, repeat flash sales, that for some reason they claimed you couldn't pass up on. Soon I realized that they were having sales all the time. Designer fabrics from New York, Italy, France and wherever. Really?

The stores that fall into category C have caused email fatigue and as a result, people are opting out of receiving them and unfortunately out of receiving emails from other businesses like mine. I don't get a lot of opt-outs. But when I do there are generally two reasons given:  I'm not sewing anymore. I'm getting too many emails from other sources.

I email once or twice a month with information on events, products and sewing courses. I am going to go to more regular emails, called Fashion Fridays. I rarely hold sales because I like to give good value and good service consistently. I would hate to have a customer purchase a product one week at regular price and then see the same product go at a discount the next week. It makes you feel like you were ripped off--which you were.

To all the people out there who subscribe to my email newsletter thank you.

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