4 Steps to Human Email Marketing for Pet Brands
So, you’ve accepted that email marketing is something you really need to embrace in your business. But where to start? Last week we gave you the basics, but today I want to talk about one of the critical success factors when it comes to email – the bit that probably makes the most difference in determining how much success you have with this tactic… and that is, showing up like an interesting HUMAN instead of a boring ROBOT. I know, I know, I say this a lot (and if you’ve read my book you’ve read all the ways building a brand makes you more human less robot) but the truth is, when we’re not sure what to say or where to start, most of us are just plain boring. Right? I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the first stuff to pop into our head is a bit lame and generic. So, of course that keeps us stuck. We don’t want to be lame!!
So here in this article I’ve got 4 Steps for you to leverage what you know (and how to find out more) about your customers and email subscribers, so you can start to bridge the gap between generic and relevant.
Take it easy, it’s a process and you’ll probably have to ease yourself into it gently… But this article is a great way to start to add some cozy humanity to your email marketing, and trustme, that your audience will love it.
Of course, I can help you do this as well (and having your brand figured it REALLLLLY helps this process, so don’t hesitate to book a free 15 min. session with me if you need a push!)
1. Segment your Audience
Segmenting simply comes down to this: what are the important basics for you to know about your buyer in order to effectively sell them the right product or service?
Consider these data points:
- Are they a pet owner or a pet business?
- Where are they located? < critical if you’re a local-based service business!
- Do they currently own a pet? Is that pet a type of animal you work with?
- How old is their pet?
- What size/breed is their dog?
Why does segmenting matter?
Well you can waste a lot of resources pretty quickly if you’re trying to sell in-person dog training services to someone in another State, or horse supplements to someone who doesn’t have a horse. On the flip side, and more the focus of this article today, you can see REAL improvements in your marketing efforts if you’re able to use the bit of data you know, to speak VERY specifically to your audience. In one example, Campaign Monitor saw a 29% increase in their email click-through by customizing the image in an email to the subscriber’s location.
In another example you’ve probably seen, Coca Cola has managed to turn their cans and bottles into collectors items by putting peoples’ names on them. But they didn’t just get people keeping their used up soda cans, they managed to achieve “a 2% increase in soft-drink sales, increasing Coke consumption from 1.7 to 1.9 billion servings per day, and making #shareacoke a No. 1 global trending topic on social media.” That’s a drop the mic moment if ever there was one (keeping in mind how HARD it is to increase the sales and consumption of such a mature product and already beloved brand!)
A Real Life Example
Here at Working with Dog, we have 3 primary types of segmentation:
Stage of Business
One of the most important things I’ve learned about targeting my audience, is that where they are in their business is a data point I need to know. I can’t serve my people well if I don’t know this, because it provides SO much insight into their (see psychographics in ‘know your audience’ below) and more importantly, the unique problems they’re looking to solve that I can help with.
- Newbie Solopreneur
- Pioneering Petpreneur
- Veteran Pet Pro
Service vs. Product Businesses
As someone who dispenses advice about marketing, it’s essential that I always keep in mind that some of my audience will be selling in a hyper-local way to people in their immediate area, and some people will be selling online or in commerce to huge markets like entire countries or globally. This makes a HUGE impact on which tactics and strategies make sense for each individual business – so it’s key distinction for my own marketing / audience understanding.
- Service/ Facility = simple channels, mostly local marketing
- Product / Online Retail = complex channels, national / international marketing
Of course ‘Petpreneurs’ are a widely varied bunch! In addition to the stage of business and service vs. product business distinguishing features, many of us have unique challenges, communities and needs based on our career or skill set. So the third type of differentiation I have in my audience is job type, for example:
- Pet Photographer
- Dog Trainer
- Dog Groomer
- Pet Blogger etc.
How Do I Segment My Email List?
Now this is the million dollar question right? Great to know stuff about your clients if you have 10 of them, but how do make that scalable and automated within your email account? Well it’s different for each email client, but I’ll show you two: Mailchimp and Convertkit
The most straightforward way to get started with segmenting like I’ve described, in Mailchimp, is to customize the form people use to sign-up to your list, to include a few more questions (like location, dogs birthday etc.). The information is a ‘list field’ that goes in the form becomes a part of their profile as a subscriber (which also becomes a ‘merge tag’ you can use in the personalization – see below). Once you’ve got that data in your subscriber’s profile – you can use it to segment them. Mailchimp does this in two ways, with Segments and with Groups.
- Groups are like categories within your list. So for example, all the people who have ‘Seattle’ as a list field in their profile can be in a ‘Seattle’ Group.
- Segments are ways to search for your subscribers based on things they have in common (mostly related to their behavior as a subscriber.
In Mailchimp, you can also segment using totally separate lists – but this is problematic because you can’t really easily verify if someone is on both lists, and you can’t email multiple lists at one time, so ultimately you may have a bit of a mess on your hands. Definitely worth learning groups and using those instead.
For more information on Segments vs. Groups check out these articles:
- Getting started with Groups
- Segments vs. Groups
- Segment your list by Purchase Activity
- All the Segmenting Options
I actually moved to Convertkit because it makes this segmentation process way, way easier (everything else is a little more complex though, which is why I suggest Mailchimp if you’re just starting out).
In Convertkit you have ‘tags’ and ‘segments’. You assign ‘tags’ to people (manually or through forms when they sign up, or through automated sequences when they click on things). This is how I know who has bought what, who is a pet photographer and who is a dog trainer, and it’s also how I email just the right people about just the right offers without having to keep any separate lists.
With Segments, you can use a huge number of ways to ‘filter’ people into groups, including being subscribed to a tag, form or email sequence, location, behavior etc. If this is something you think you’ll start doing more in your business, you should definitely look into switching from Mailchimp to Convertkit.
2. Know your Audience
You’ve probably heard a lot about ‘targeting’ and knowing the ‘demographics’ of your audience… which is totally valid stuff. But when you get into email, what you need to know about your potential customers is less about their age or gender, and more about their psychographics.
Psychographics is defined as ‘the study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria, especially in market research.’ < hint: secrets to how you will you connect emotionally with them.
When you’re solving problems for, or selling stuff to people, you need to know the emotional core of what’s motivating them. What are they trying to escape or achieve? This is never more true in email where you’re trying to get them to click, click, and read their way into wanting to give you money. It’s truly an art!
As an example of what I mean, here are the Working with Dog ‘Stage of Business’ segments I shared with you above, plus a quick glimpse into their psychographics, are you in one of these categories? Can you relate?
1. Dreamer (hasn’t started yet)
Dreaming of Ditching your soul-sucking 9-5 to spend your days working with critters. You want the right roadmap to make your part-time or still-a-dream business thrive from the off, as well as a bit of inspiration and confidence boost to go ahead and MAKE that leap and build your #milliondollardogbrand!
2. Newbie Solopreneur (has barely started or is still in corporate job + starting)
In mega hustle mode. Do or Die. Make or break. You’ve got a good thing just barely going but need affordable help with marketing, like right now. You are throwing everything you can at it to make this business work, but right now it’s all on you and you need a reliable source you can trust to help prioritize investments of your limited time and money.
3. Pioneering Petpreneur (2+ yrs)
You just don’t have time to consume the all the ‘must have’ marketing trends that land in your newsfeed or inbox each day. You might be on your own or maybe you have a growing team, but you are responsible for the vision + strategy of your business. You’re looking for more effective and efficient ways refine your message, shout it out and attract ideal customers who become brand fanatics. You want the answers in a format that is quick to digest and easy to delegate or implement – resources you can share with your support team, plus perhaps a bit of accountability to force quick action.
4. Veteran Pet Pro (5+ yrs)
You’ve been at this a while. You have a lot of things figured out, bu you need to either fall back in love with your business, change it, or move on. You’re nearing or fully blazing in burnout and your body, relationships, pets or desires are screaming at you to change up the tempo and reclaim some freedom & fulfilment – some LIFE back from this business. You’re looking to breathe new excitement and energy into your already humming-along business. Maybe you want a fresh coat of paint, or perhaps you want to build a personal brand and sustainable passive income alongside your existing service or physical product-based biz… Maybe you simply want a change and you’re not sure what it is
5. Expert (many veterans may qualify)
These are people we want to cross-promote with, invite to be experts or generally collaborate with!
Knowing your audience is a lot more than hard numbers and keywords – it’s about truly understanding them and then using what you know about their needs, fears and goals, to help them see the alignment between their desires and your products & services… In this case, through email!
3. Personalize your Emails
“Personalization, in the context of email marketing, is the act of targeting an email campaign to a specific subscriber by leveraging the data and information you have about them. It could be information like their first name, the last product they bought, where they live, how many times they log into your app or a plethora of other data points.” – Campaign Monitor
Of course to use data, you have to have it, so that’s why I emphasized ‘segmenting’ your audience above. This way you’ll have a bit more information with which to sell effectively. But if you find that whole concept overwhelming, there is still and easy and effective way to personalize your emails, and that is to use your subscriber’s first name.
Most email platforms will allow you to drop the first name of your subscriber into an email or subject line (and I suggest trying both) with what they call ‘Merge Tags’. Below is a screen-shot from and email in both Convertkit and Mailchimp for you to see what it looks like before it’s sent… (and one before & after so you can see what it looks like after it’s sent)
I know what you’re thinking… what if I don’t have a first name for someone end they get an email that instead of their name says something mortifying like ‘first name goes here’ instead! No worries, that’s why you want to use ‘Fallbacks’.
In Convertkit you simply select ‘Subscriber’s Name (with Fallback)’ from the ‘Personalize’ Menu and it gives another set of code if there is no first name on file – so instead of ‘Hello First Name Goes Here’ – it will simply say ‘Hello’. Here’s more from the Convertkit on personalizing emails.
For mailchimp you just have to set up a default value for this in your list (rather than selecting a ‘fallback’ merge tag in each email) Here are simple instructions to do just that in Mailchimp.
Revenue is 5.7 times higher in emails that employ personalization – Rich Relevance
Subscribers who receive personalized content not only have higher open rates and CTR (click through rate), but a 6x increase in transactions. – Experian Marketing Services
… I mean I could give you a list of like 100o stats about why, but you get the idea, right? 🙂
4. Keep your Copy Fresh
Lastly, and perhaps the least technical, and yet still trickiest part of all of this, is keeping the copy and tone of your emails fresh, lively, fun and interesting. Starting especially in your subject line to get people interested in what you have to say – with enough mystery to entice them to click and open the mail!
We have a great resource in Working with Dog already in the ‘Storytelling’ Theme – if this is something you struggle with I suggest checking that out – and this video in particular, Brand Voice, will really help you keep your emails more human and less robot!
You know I love to challenge you to take action right away on what you’ve learned here – so the challenge today is to go into your email account and pick ONE way to personalize your list or your next email. Figure out how to use your subscriber’s first name and try that, or figure out how to customize a form and pop it on a page of your website so for people who are willing you can direct them there to tell you more about themselves. No matter what you choose, commit to ensuring your next email (which should be within the next 2 weeks – no stalling!) is a little bit more human.