By Sarah Kuiken

You’ve been writing to the same tried-and-true ­customer personas for years, and it’s been going great. You know your customers inside and out, and they’re responding to your marketing like gangbusters as a result.

Or at least, they were – until the global pandemic hit.

(If you have no idea what a customer persona is, you’re marketing wrong.)

The Basics of Customer Personas

The idea behind personas is simple. Don’t write generic marketing copy designed to appeal to everyone, even if “everyone” is who you’d love to buy your product. Instead, pick specific people who exemplify your target customers, and market directly to them.

To do this well, you need understand your target market on the deepest levels. Their desires, their fears, their pain points and challenges …. And, of course, how your product or service can make all of their problems go away.

All of this should be top of mind whenever you’re creating any piece of marketing or customer-facing content.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has changed everything

If your sales are down post-COVID, it’s probably not a huge shock. Most businesses – especially those who sell things that are “nice to have” instead of necessary – have seen the direct impact of consumers pulling back on spending,

But don’t be too quick to blame the economy for lost sales yet. The problem could lie in your marketing.

Before you congratulate yourself for having sent out a “Our Response to COVID-19” e-mail, know this: just about every business out there has sent one of those. This includes a lot of businesses whose COVID-19 response was frankly not really a concern to their customers in the first place.

What this means to you is that consumers are pretty numb to this sort of thing. Odds are good that people took one look at the subject line and sent that e-mail straight to their trash folder.

We know. The truth hurts.

Messages that are too general, or those that lack genuine sensitivity for the shared experience of fear and grief that’s been everyone’s 2020 to date, are seen as self-serving.

People aren’t interested in that sort of thing, even from a business. Even if they understand that a business needs to make money.

Customer personas have changed their priorities and their purchasing habits in response to COVID-19. If you want your target audience to look at something you’ve written and think, “How did you get in my head?!” (and you do), you should pay attention to exactly how.

Here are 5 trends we’ve noticed in the way that different customer personas are responding to COVID-19 and other socioeconomic crises.

1. There’s a lot of fear

This is probably not earth-shattering news. You’re probably afraid yourself.

COVID-19 was devastating to large and small businesses alike, but small businesses in particular have suffered. Some estimates suggest that 35% of small businesses nationwide are in danger of closing their doors for good within the next quarter. Even if those doors are virtual.

Unemployment hit its highest rates since the Great Depression of the 1930s. A huge percentage of the population finds themselves out of work, or with a partner who is. If they’re still employed, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what the future will hold.

You cannot forget this when you communicate with your target market, particularly if they’re in a segment that’s been hardest hit.

2. Spending habits are changing

We know, this is a pretty broad statement. To know exactly how your customers’ spending habits are changing, you’ll want to look at your specific customer personas pre-COVID, and determine how they’re reacting to the recent economic downturn.

A fascinating article in EY recently broke down personas into past and projected future spending groups:

Each of the squares above represents a specific persona type, often tied to an age group.

For instance, the “Cut Deep” segment are generally over 45 years old, and saw the biggest impact on their employment status. The vast majority of people in this group have significantly reduced their shopping and have limited spending to essentials only.

This means that if you make a “nice to have” or luxury product and a group of now-unemployed parents are your target customer base, you’ll probably want to re-think some things.

3. Most don’t expect to return to “normal” any time soon

There’s a reason why you’re sick of the phrase “the new normal.” It’s here to stay – at least, for the foreseeable future.

Consumers expect their spending habits to change for a long time to come. Only 31% of consumers in the EY study said they expect their spending to return to normal in the next few months.

For everyone else, we’re seeing some new patterns. You know your customers best, or you should. Do some research on how they are responding to COVID-19, and pivot your strategy accordingly.

4. More people are buying local

As trust in bigger companies starts to erode at a quickening pace, lots of consumers are making active decisions to support local businesses. There’s a lot of emphasis being placed on local shops, restaurants, and brands.

People like to support the underdog in a crisis, and especially in a pandemic, they like knowing exactly where the sausage is made.

5. For some groups, value matters more than money

Again, this will depend on your exact customer personas, so do your research. But in general, many consumers are prioritizing the value of something above the cost.

Items are being seen as long-term investments now, particularly if they add to the experience of being at home, for parents and kids alike.

Particularly if your customer base skews slightly younger, you’ll notice a preference for high-quality, local goods that’s stronger than ever.

People might be buying less, but they’re putting more time and attention into the things they are buying.

6. Impact is increasingly important

A third of consumers say that COVID-19 has made them reconsider the things they value most, and more than a quarter are more attentive now to the impact of what they’re buying.

Who knows if this newfound sense of social duty will last. But if you can highlight any details surrounding a positive impact your business is making on the environment or your local community, do it.

How have you seen your customers change after COVID-19?

Let us know in the comments below. We love to hear about your experience!

In normal times, including email marketing in your marketing arsenal is pretty important. But during a crisis, where your marketing budget might be tighter, your other marketing efforts are underperforming, and your customers are wary of being “marketed” to during unsure times, email marketing should be your #1 marketing priority.

Why?

Email marketing has the highest ROI of any marketing tactic or channel.

FOR EVERY $1 YOU SPEND ON EMAIL MARKETING, YOU CAN EXPECT AN AVERAGE RETURN OF $42.

(DMA 2019)

For comparison you can expect a $2 ROI for every $1 you spend in Google Ads.

Do you need more reasons? Email marketing is:

  1. Cheap
  2. Effective
  3. Customers want to hear from you
  4. Builds credibility
  5. Deepens relationships
  6. Boosts sales
  7. Helps nurture relationships
  8. You own it
  9. Your list is already engaged

So how do you build an email list? What should you say in your emails?

I answer all these questions (and so much more!) in a webinar I presented recently.

Just CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW!

Do you need help with your email marketing strategy?

Do you need help with your email content?

Or maybe you just need some extra eyes on your emails to make sure they’re not ‘tone deaf’ to the current crisis?

CONTACT US NOW – WE’RE HERE TO HELP!

Understanding the best day and time to send emails to your subscribers is key to getting high open rates and click through rates on your emails (which in turn can yield you higher revenue through sales of your products or services!)

Now you have a great subject line, what is the best day and time to send your emails?

Now that you have a great email subject line for your email campaigns (using the tips I shared in “The Trick to Getting People to Open Your Emails“) knowing WHEN to send your emails is an important next step.

There has been a ton of research done by all the email providers to understand the best day of the week and time of the day to send emails.

Let’s think about this for a minute…

Imagine you’re sitting down at your desk first thing in the morning on a Monday.

You had an awesome weekend, and kind of have the Monday Morning Blues with an already overflowing email inbox facing you as you log in to your computer.

How inclined are you to open all the emails? 

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to delete as many of those emails as possible. Who wants to have to go through them all on a Monday morning. We’ve got better things to do on the first day of the week!

Delete. Delete. Delete. 

Well, this isn’t good news for you, if you’re sending your weekly emails on a Monday.

How about the weekend? 

I’m a skimmer on a weekend. If it isn’t super important, I don’t read emails. The weekend is my downtime. Don’t try to get me to read your email on a weekend!

I think most people are in a similar mindset – they’re more focused on hitting the beach, or catching up on chores. They’re really not going to read your email.

BUT there is a caveat to this – if your emails are to do with leisure, travel or home-related activities, then your emails may have a much higher chance of being read on a weekend when people are in a mindset related to these topics!

Something else to note – this isn’t going to be true for everyone on your list. But you need to cater to the majority of people on your list.

So when SHOULD you send your emails?

Best Day of the Week is…

Drum roll please…

TUESDAY! Tuesday is the #1 best day of the week to send emails, hands down!

Followed by Thursday and then Wednesday. (Weekends are also high!)

So if you send two emails a week, choose Thursday as your second day.

Some studies showed high open and click rates on the weekends. Those are also the days when the fewest emails are sent. So open rates may be higher, but the actual number of emails opened is way lower.

Best Time of the Day is…

Late morning! 10 am – 11 am to be more precise! 

Why? Maybe because people have had time to get through the early morning rush of taking kids to school, getting to work, catching up on calls and reading through ’emergency’ emails. And now they’re ready to cruise through the rest of their mailbox.

Another hot time is: (and this is a weird one) from 8 pm to midnight. 

This is likely due to people checking their email before going to bed.

2 pm is another peak time. People might be needing a distraction from their work at this point in the day.

6 am is the other peak time. According to this post, 50% of you begin your day by emailing in bed… (I admit it, I do this – along with checking Facebook. Sigh. )

A quick note on time zones

A good question at this point would be – “Do I send emails on Tuesdays at 10 am in MY time zone?”

The answer is – yes or no. It really depends on where the majority of your list resides. If you don’t know, then send it in Eastern Time zone.

Now ignore all of this…

What?? Yes, I just went through all of this awesome cool data for you, and now I’m telling you to ignore it.

Ok, not all of you.

Ignore this advise IF you know how to read Google Analytics and your own website and email provider data. If you can read and analyze your data, then you should be able to determine the best days and times YOUR audience is most engaged.

Test it out by sending emails on different days and different times (use the same email subject line/content so you have a clean test). You will soon learn which days are best for you!

Now you know the best day and time to send your emails

You just learned a ton of info that will help you be on your way to more successful email campaigns. Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Send your emails on Tuesdays.
  2. Send them at 10 a.m.
  3. Test the best days and times to find out when your audience is most active
  4. And test again 🙂 

Do you have a specific day/time that works better for you? Share in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

How important are email subject lines?

Are you hearing crickets when you send out emails?

We’ve all been there – slaved away over an email that you thought was awesome, but no one opened it!

You spent hours and hours pouring out your heart and soul, but  – crickets!

You were worried that the email system might be broken because there is no way that awesome email wouldn’t have been opened. Right?

Wrong!

Your email subject lines are the problem! 

Just like a blog post, or a book, or a news article, your email subject line needs to be enticing so people will open your email. Let’s face it – we all get overwhelmed in our inbox, so your email needs to stand out from the crowd!

Why emails matter

Before we dive in to subject lines, let’s remind ourselves WHY emails matter!

  1. 40% more likely to get noticed!

Compared to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter, your emails are 40% more likely to get noticed!

The readers of your emails have raised their hands to be on your list and to hear you news. So make sure your headline is relatable to them!

2. Conversion rates are 6 x higher (compared to other marketing tactics)

Your email list are hand raisers! They’ve opted in to receive your emails – and they want to read them. So they’re way more likely to open your emails than to read your Facebook page, or Twitter post.

3.  Your return on investment (ROI) is $44 for every $1 spent 

For the cost of your time and an Email Service Provider (ESP) like MailChimp, ConvertKit, Active Campaign or Emma (etc.) you can market as often as you like to your Email list.

How to create an enticing email subject line

Now to the juicy details. How do you create a subject line that will actually entice a reader to open it?

Step 1: Don’t write like a robot. Too many subject lines are autogenerated (and you can tell!) So make sure it sounds conversational, like you’re chatting with a friend. Forget the formality!

Step 2: Match your subject line to the content inside your email. The tone and topic should give the reader a sense of what’s inside.

Step 3: Create scannable, easy to digest subject lines. The right amount of words—and characters—can make all the difference in your open rates!

7 is the ideal WORD count. The ideal number of CHARACTERS = 65

Step 4: Use one of these headline starters:

  • Use numbers! (They’re the #1 converting subject line for emails AND blog headlines!)
    • # Things to do before _________
    • # Quick steps to ___________
    • # Ways to __________
    • # Top tips for __________
  • How to’s:
    • How to be the greatest ________
    • How to grow a ____________
    • How to build a___________
  • Informational: 
    • Best places to visit in_______
    • Advice on parenting
    • Ways to save money on________

A couple of other styles that work: 

  • The ______ you MUST check out______
  • The secret to ______ you need to know
  • Want to _______ online?

Kick it up a notch

Once you have a decent subject line, add in an enticing descriptive word to take it to the next level. Words that will create a little mystery so the reader opens the email because they can’t help it! They’re intrigued!

  • top secret
  • surprising
  • mystery revealed
  • lightning fast
  • can’t miss
  • smarter
  • creative

Test it out

CoSchedule has created a cool tool so you can see if your email subject line will work. Copy in the subject line, and hit ‘submit’ and they’ve give you a score!

Check it out here:  https://coschedule.com/email-subject-line-tester 

Test it again

Now you have a new subject line, try it out on a small subset of your list. Are the open rates higher than your prior average? If so, send it to the rest of your list.

So there you have it! Up your subject line game and getter better email open rates!

What questions do YOU have about email marketing? What is your open rate like, and what are you doing to improve it? 

Leave your questions and comments below! I love to hear from you!

Shhhhhh… can you hear that? Are you listening?

There is a whole lot of noise and distraction around us these days – now more than ever before. How do we make sure our business is heard amongst all the noise?

The one skill all business owners need to master – listening!

When it comes to marketing your business, listening is the #1 tool we all need to be great at.

Why?

Bad advertising comes from poor listening.

Marketing is all about influencing people’s behavior and perceptions. If your ads and messaging are fake, or inauthentic then you will shut out your audience and disengage them. Your marketing efforts will fail. 

 

If you aren’t listening to your customers, you’re creating something based on what you think they want. Which is often something far removed from what they actually want.

 

Once you’ve built your product or service, you need to listen again to make sure you’re crafting messaging that people will connect with.

 

Interpreting what you’re hearing is also a skill needed in understanding the wants/needs/desires of your customers.

 

Go in with an open mind when you listen to your customers – so you can hear everything, even if it isn’t something you don’t want to hear. Don’t try to misinterpret what they’re saying.

 

The goal is to create images and messaging that will people will see/hear amongst all the noise, like, and remember with when they’re making a purchasing decision. It needs to resonate with their hopes, desires, and fears.

6 ways to become a better listener

1. Schedule the time. Let’s face it, we’re all busy building our businesses, so there is little time to waste. But this is one thing you HAVE to schedule time for – find the time to listen to your customers before you create a new product or service, and listen again to create your messaging.

2. Listen to them, not you. It is so easy to listen to your own voice or the voices of those around you (your colleagues, coaches, friends, and family). But stop. Instead, talk with ideal customers. Find out what their pain points are. In their own words.

3. Hear the jargon. Listen to theirs, not yours! Don’t insert your own jargon into messaging, unless your ideal customer will understand it. What words are your customers using when talking about their needs and your product or service? Use those words in your messaging!

4. Dig deep with your questions. To get beyond the simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses, ask more probing questions of your ideal customers. Ask open-ended questions so people will use their own words. What are the motivations that drive the behavior of your customers?

5. Listen for the descriptors. How do your ideal customers feel about the service or product, and about their needs and desires? What are the exact words they are using to express themselves? Listen for the emotions

6. Don’t judge. When you’re listening to queues and for the descriptors from your ideal clients, ignore your own bias. Remove yourself from the dialogue. This is all about your ideal customer. Not you.

 

Take a tone of notes and then you’ll be armed with all the words your ideal customers use when it comes to your product or service, and their wants, needs, and desires.

 

The next step is to create great copy on your website, on your posts on social media and anywhere that you are trying to attract customers containing these phrases and words that your ideal customer uses.

Listen. It could make or break your business!

 

I kind of said “no” to an editing client, and was ok with it!

Being a copy editor isn’t new to me. I’ve been doing it for a number of years. However, offering eBook editing services is a new service that I have recently added to my portfolio.

Accidental book editor

My good friend, Kim Chappell, is about to launch her book “Conquer the Trend Wave”. I met Kim through a couple of Facebook groups we both belong to, and we hit it off. We were both in the middle of launching our new companies, and so it was a great opportunity to hold each other accountable and support each other in our new endeavors.

Kim was in the middle of pulling together her new book, and I offered to take a read of it. Well, ‘reading’ turned in to editing. And a new service was born for The Intentional Marketer.

Along comes ‘Joe’

This story though, was not about me firing Kim. No – we are still working together today! This story is about another client who asked if I could edit his eBook. To protect his identity, let’s call him “Joe”. Joe saw me editing Kim’s book, so he asked if I would also edit his eBook that he was about to launch.

Something in my gut told me that I needed to read the book before letting him know if I could work with him. So I had “Joe” send me a copy of his book. The file was enormous, so I figured I had my work cut out for me, and was expecting to be reading for days.

photos and style

In reality, I read his book in 20 minutes. The “book” was full of enormous photo images, which is why the file was so large. But that wasn’t the worst of the problems. The content was written in a presentation style and was very challenging to follow. If Joe were to present it in person to his audience adding commentary, it would make a little more sense. But as an eBook, it left a lot to interpretation. There was no story to follow – just a lot of random thoughts with large images on pages.

The worst part – I’m pretty sure almost all the photos (except the ones of himself) were infringing on copyright laws. That is an enormous ‘no-no’. He was asking for someone to sue him.

So many things…

It took me a couple of days to work out how I was going to respond to “Joe”. I didn’t want to discourage him from writing, but his eBook needed a lot of work. After a number of deleted email drafts, I finally sent him the following email:

Dear “Joe”,
I have reviewed your ebook and have some feedback. 
In the current format, it reads more like your notes from a presentation you might give in a classroom or presentation environment. There is a lot of detail that could be built out further in the content, that might make it a more readable and digestible ebook. There are some grammatical issues in the book, but they are pretty easy to fix.
I would consider revising the book to include more detail as you will not be in a position to be able to talk your reader through the book in person. You don’t want to assume they can keep up with your level of intellect, or your thought process either. So make sure you stick to one topic. Build out your thoughts on that topic, before you introduce the next one. You clearly have a lot of great thoughts, opinions, and insights to share in your ebook, but you want to make sure people are able to read it and comprehend it as well. 
The other thing I noted is that a lot of the images you are using are copied off the internet. You are not allowed to use these images without permission as they are probably under copyright. If you publish this ebook, you could be sued by the owners of the images.
Just a couple of thoughts. I’m not sure there is a lot I can do to assist you with this current version of your book. I hope you take my feedback for what it is – simply trying to help you make a great book that will have a positive impact on peoples lives. 
~Sonya 

His response was short and brief – “Excellent feedback! Very useful. Thank you.”

And that was it. We haven’t spoken since. And I’m ok with that. Sometimes providing a little feedback and a few suggestions are better than trying to make something out of nothing. This project would have been a huge investment in time and would have been unaffordable to Joe if I had taken it on due to the number of hours I would have needed to make his eBook a great eBook.
I am not a ghostwriter. I am an editor that wants to make sure that my clients are launching their best product and that it has a good chance of being successful.