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On the Value of Human Interaction

Are you hitting or missing the human connection in your marketing?

I’m always in conversation. My job consists largely of meetings, strategy planning sessions, panels, podcasts, and committees. At the end of most days, I’m overflowing with ideas from all the multifarious personalities I encounter. That inspo is the result of human connection, and it’s why I not only make PR, marketing, and communications my business, but love it. It’s also the reason why the last two years have been so difficult for so many of us in the absence of office interaction, travel, events, and tradeshows.

Marketing - Email - Social Media
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More Meaningful Emails

But why am I going on about how I like to chat with people? A few things surfaced recently that led me to the topic of this column. An integrator was questioning why their emails were getting low open rates and high unsubscribes and looking for guidance. We took a closer look at their database and discovered that the list was riddled with “info@,” “sales@,” and “contact@” email addresses. More than half the list was going to mostly unmanned and completely impersonal mailbox purgatory, just waiting to be opened by a random person in the organization or, worse, lost forever. We asked how the list was being developed, nurtured, and expanded over time. Adding bad practice to bad practice, we identified that the content of the emails was largely sales-oriented, and they weren’t even attempting to personalize them, let alone speak to their needs (more on that shortly).

On the flipside of the coin, another integrator shared they have consistently experienced great success in marketing, garnering a very good open rate of over 50 percent on nearly every email! That’s partially because their list is the result of local outreach and actively working or participating in lead-generating events in the community that serve their target audience. Their leads originated at a point of human interaction where the marketer and the…let’s call them “marketee”…have something in common. For one, they are at the same event, making personalized follow-up a cinch, especially if you remembered what you talked about (hint, take dictation on your phone to remember details!).

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A carefully crafted email — or, even better, a handwritten note — would remind them how you met, include some personal detail about your interaction, and offer a genuine overture to connect further. If you’re honestly interested in cultivating a relationship, they will be, too. Yes, this work is time consuming. Yes, it can be painstaking. The value of leads cultivated with this level of engagement, however, can’t be underestimated. A few hours of outreach and thoughtful follow-up might produce, for example, a relationship in which a local architect recommends your business. Every. Single. Time. That’s some great ROI right there. Our business is niche; we aren’t marketing Coca-Cola to the masses. We must be intentional.

Additionally, when sending mass emails to an already cultivated marketing list, it’s extremely important to deliver content that is relatable, interesting, and useful and not overtly sales-pitchy. If you want to keep them opening your emails again and again, and you do, your content needs to be compelling, creative, and memorable.

Putting Personal Back in Personalization

There is a lot of buzz about personalization in marketing, personalization that is ironically done through automation. Indeed, emails that have first names in the subject line using Personalization Tokens are more likely to be opened. But inauthentic personalization can also fail. Here is a line from an actual email I got from someone pitching services:

“I was looking for a powerful and growing public relations and communications company in Red Lodge, and your name was at the very top of the suggestion list…I help growing companies add additional gasoline to the sales pipeline by creating a cold outreach ecosystem in their business.”

What does this marketing speak even mean? Does this firm honestly think I believe them when they say they are looking for a powerful firm in the very specific and small mountain town of Red Lodge, MT, that KMB calls home? These emails aren’t without their use, however: We send them around among the team and take note of the miss. The moral of the story: Ditch the false attempts at personalization and make your outreach actually personal. If your interest is genuine, they will know. If it’s not, it’s straight to the spam folder or Unsubscribe button for you.

Analog Outreach

Think outside the digital universe when it comes to showing clients that you care or nurturing potential new relationships. Send a handwritten note and it makes a big impression. We had one client send a homeowner a hardcover photobook with professional interior and exterior photography and flyover footage of their home with a thank you note inside. Call a local designer, architect, or builder you’ve connected with in the past and ask if you can stop by for 15 minutes in person. Writing things with your hands or going the extra mile to show someone they are important to you will get you much farther than a rote form email.

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Social Is as Social Does

We’ve said it before: Don’t go to the party and be a wallflower. You must apply the human touch to social media as well. We often hear from integrators and brands who wonder why their social posts aren’t performing and their audience isn’t engaged or growing. Sure, it’s important to know about the latest algorithms, platform particularities, best practices for hashtags, and so on, but most of these posts fail because they are written unsociably and are riddled with chest-beating, are dry, or make use the dreaded marketing speak.

Don’t post just to post. Think about your audience and whether they will find your content engaging. Then post.

This is the part where I say, yes, it can be very overwhelming. And you can enlist the help of a marketing team like KMB to consult with you to help hone your message and create that personal touch. However, on a local level, when you are trying to build these relationships, no one knows your business and your community better than you do! Sometimes, a combined effort is just the thing your business needs to get to the next level. As always, I’m here to help. Drop me a line at [email protected] and let’s start the conversation!

Katye McGregor Bennett is chief strategist and CEO of KMB Communications and an avid podcaster. Podcasts include Connecting Tech + Design and AV Trade Talk.